Jewish activist couple marries surreptitiously on Temple Mount

Wedding ceremony carried out in act of protest, since Israel bars Jews from prayer or rituals at flashpoint holy site; police to question the groom

An Israeli Jewish couple surreptitiously held their marriage ceremony Thursday at the Temple Mount, in an act of protest against Israeli-imposed rules forbidding Jewish religious rituals at the flashpoint site.

The couple, who are both activists in the Students for the Temple Mount group, which seeks to increase Jewish access to the site, videotaped the hurried ceremony and distributed the clip to the press.

The couple had to carry out the nuptials without being seen by the Israeli police escort who would have stopped them, fearing such incidents could provoke unrest among the Palestinians.

Footage from the event showed Students for the Temple Mount chair Tom Nisani walking alongside his fiancé and fellow Temple Mount activist Sarah Lurcat, accompanied by friends as well as the customary police escort for Israeli-Jewish visitors to the site.

Speaking to the camera, Nisani explained the importance of the site before footage skipped to him hastily placing a ring on the index finger of Lurcat in the presence of two witnesses and reciting a blessing officially marking the consecration of the marriage.

To avoid raising suspicions the two wore regular clothes. He was in a white polo shirt, while she wore a denim jacket and did not wear a veil.

He explained to the camera that he and his wife “married at the holiest place for the Jewish people.”

However, he said they would also hold a traditional ceremony with guests in three months’ time.

Police say Nisani will be investigated for violating regulations at the site, and may be placed on a list of activists and members of parliament banned from the site.

A similar covert marriage ceremony was held at the Temple Mount in April 2016. According to Channel 2, that was the first time such a ritual had been observed at the site in 11 years.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, it is the third-holiest site in Islam.

Under the terms of the fragile status quo in place on the Mount since Israel captured the Old City in 1967, Jews and other non-Muslims can visit, but cannot worship there. While the Jordanian-run and Palestinian-staffed Waqf manages the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, it has no authority over who enters the Temple Mount compound, which is guarded by Israeli police.

Hundreds of thousands of worshipers pray at the al-Aqsa mosque on the night of al-Qadr, in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, july,1, 2016. (Suliman Khader/Flash90)
Hundreds of thousands of worshipers pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on the night of al-Qadr, in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 1, 2016. (Suliman Khader/Flash90)

The 37-acre (15-hectare) compound is a frequent flashpoint and its fate is one of the core issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Judaism, it is the home of the two biblical temples. Muslims believe it is the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven; it is the third-holiest site in Islam and houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock.

Several recent outbreaks of violence have occurred due to Palestinian perceptions that Israel was trying to change the status quo at the site.

There was no immediate reaction from the Waqf to the video of the wedding.

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