Six Jews in their 20s were arrested Thursday morning after police suspected they were planning to sacrifice a goat at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of Passover.
The suspects, residents of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, were detained and taken in for questioning after police found a goat in one of the suspects’ homes.
The “Returning to the Mount” extremist group, which advocates the construction of a third Jewish temple on the site that once housed the two biblical temples, have circulated a flyer offering a cash prize to anyone who managed to offer a living sacrifice on the Temple Mount, and to anyone arrested trying to do so.
“Arrested? NIS 400. Arrested with a goat/lamb? NIS 800. Managed to sacrifice? NIS 10,000,” the post from Returning to the Mount read.
The “Returning to the Mount” group said that in addition to the arrests, a number of their members have received phone calls from the Shin Bet warning them not to proceed with their plans. “Despite all this, the goats are on their way to Jerusalem.”
Israeli authorities have vowed to stop any attempts to bring sacrificial animals to the complex, as they have in years past.
According to police, “false information is being distributed online regarding the Temple Mount, alongside publications encouraging extremist entities to be arrested by police by attempting to reach the site and conduct illegal activities.”
"נכנעו לאיומי הטרור"; המשטרה עצרה יהודים שתכננו להקריב פסח
שוטרים פשטו הבוקר (ה') ואמש על בתיהם של פעילים בתנועת חוזרים להר ועצרו אותם. מאחד הבתים הוחרם גדי. זאת לאחר איומי חמאס נגד ניסיונות להקרבת קרבן פסח
— הקול היהודי (@hakolhayehudi) April 14, 2022
“Police will continue to operate in Jerusalem and anywhere else together with all security agencies, 24/7, covertly and overtly, against any person who attempts to violate the order and laws in place at the Temple Mount and the other holy sites in the city,” a police statement read.
The statement added that “publications that raise suspicion of a potential criminal violation will be treated accordingly.”
The provocative plans announced by Jewish activists were met with threats from Hamas on Wednesday, which said it would not allow Jews to offer sacrifices at the site “at any cost,” while Gazan terror factions convened to discuss a unified response to the alleged “aggressions.”
The Gaza-based terror group added: “We stress that this represents a dangerous escalation that crosses all red lines, as it is a direct assault on the belief and feelings of our people and our nation during this holy month,” referring to the month of Ramadan.
The Returning to the Mount post also drew condemnation from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Arabic-language spokesperson denied there were any plans to bring sacrifices up to the hilltop, and said any attempts to do so would be halted.
Hosting Arab Israeli officials, religious and civil society leaders and members of the security forces at an annual Iftar dinner in Jerusalem Wednesday, President Isaac Herzog said Israel will continue to maintain the status quo in the capital.
“In recent days, mendacious reports have been circulating on social media about the Temple Mount and the holy sites. I want to take this opportunity to say: These are lies. Israel maintains the status quo on the Temple Mount,” Herzog said.
The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest. Jews are allowed to visit the compound, but not pray or perform religious rituals, as part of a delicate status quo.
A small group of Jewish extremists have occasionally sought to perform the biblically mandated Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount. But police have regularly detained the perpetrators, who do not appear to have successfully pulled off a sacrifice in recent years at the flashpoint holy site.
So far, despite daily clashes in the Old City, the capital remains relatively calm, amid a wave of Palestinian terror attacks in other major cities and in the West Bank.
According to Palestinian reports, five Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning.