Hebron cleric accuses Israel of plotting to rebuild temple

Leading Palestinian Muslim figure says daily ‘intrusions’ by Israeli leaders into Muslim shrine confirm plan to destroy it

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background. (photo credit: Ahmad Jaber/Flash90)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background. (photo credit: Ahmad Jaber/Flash90)

A leading figure in the Muslim religious establishment said Israel has a “manifest” plan to rebuilt the Jewish Temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Sheikh Taysir Rajab al-Tamimi, who heads Hebron’s Sharia court, said in his Friday sermon that daily “intrusions” by Israeli MKs and Jewish leaders into the complex surrounding the holy Muslim site prove that such a plan exists, Arutz Sheva reported late Saturday.

Tamimi reportedly stated that the Israeli decision to erect a Jewish religious building near the Temple Mount was part of a plan to rebuild the Jewish Temple over its ruins.

“The recent visit by the American president, [Barack] Obama, to occupied Jerusalem, his statements saying that Jerusalem is capital of the Jews, and his demand that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish character of the Israeli entity, constitute a declaration of war and prepare the ground for the Judaization of occupied Jerusalem by Israel,” Tamimi was quoted as saying.

The religious leader reportedly called on the Palestinians and the Muslim world to join the struggle to defend Al-Aqsa. He also urged the international community to act quickly to contain Israel “before it ignites a religious war that will consume everything in the entire world.”

Last week, Housing Minister Uri Ariel became the first serving Cabinet minister in recent memory to visit the Temple Mount, when he participated in a tour of the sacred site as a tourist.

While right-wing politicians occasionally visit the controversial site — Likud hawk Moshe Feiglin was recently barred from touring the Mount — Ariel is the first Cabinet minister to do so lately. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon sparked riots when he did so as opposition leader in September 2000.

The status quo on the Mount is the result of a convergence of religious and political interests after 1967. Rabbis decided early on that religious law forbade visiting the site because of fears that one might tread on the location of the Holy of Holies, the focal point of ancient ritual, where people were forbidden to enter. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the most important Zionist rabbi of the latter half of the 20th century, ruled that it was prohibited to visit the Mount, a position still endorsed by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. With the threat of violence should Muslim control at the site be harmed, Israeli authorities were also eager to keep the peace and happy to channel Jewish worshipers to the Western Wall.

But the desire to pray on the Mount has found more acceptance among mainstream rabbis in Israel over the past decade, spreading gradually from a tiny fringe to a broader religious public. The numbers of Jews actually visiting the Mount for religious reasons is still tiny — no more than several thousand a year, according to police estimates — but inching upward, and the sacred enclosure is slowly gaining in importance as an issue of religious and political meaning for religious Zionists, a group with outsize ideological and political clout in Israeli society.

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