Israel Police raised the level of preparedness across the country Wednesday night following the attempted murder of prominent right-wing activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick earlier in the evening in Jerusalem.
Security forces were bracing for violence in the capital after right-wing activists called to march en masse on the Temple Mount Thursday morning as a response to the shooting which has left Glick in serious condition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an urgent meeting with police Wednesday night, calling for an increased police presence in Jerusalem.
“We are all praying for Yehudah’s well-being,” said Netanyahu.
Glick was shot three times outside the Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center following a conference about the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Police were still searching for the unidentified assailant who was wearing a helmet and was said to have fled the scene on a motorcycle.
Glick had finished a speech at a conference at the Begin Center, entitled “Israel returns to the Temple Mount.” Eyewitnesses said that after the event, a man with an Arabic accent approached Glick and asked him for his identity. The man then shot the victim, got on the motorcycle and fled.
Prior to firing at Glick at the end of the Temple Mount conference at the Begin Center on Wednesday night, later reports indicated, the gunman approached the rabbi, and told him, “Yehuda, I’m sorry, but the things you said hurt me.” Glick asked him what he meant, but the gunman did not respond, instead gunning him down. Glick remained in very serious but stable condition in the hospital late Thursday.
Outside Begin heritage building were attempted assassination took place this evening. pic.twitter.com/BxGI5UtkSz
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) October 29, 2014
Channel 2 reported Wednesday night following the incident that Glick had turned to police at least five times recently to complain about threats to his life.
A message on a jihadist Palestinian website about the conference he attended prior to the shooting, which included details on the time, location and names of attendees, was being looked into by police, Channel 2 reported. The post also called on Palestinians to prevent the meeting, according to the report.
Glick’s father, Professor Shimon Glick, said his family had been worried for his son’s well-being after he received death threats for his Temple Mount activities. “I was very worried. My wife was very worried,” he told Channel 2.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t receive proper protection. He showed me on Facebook the threats against him. I knew this would happen and asked him to stop his activities,” Prof. Glick said.
He added that his son was a man of peace “who wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He said he’d feared Yehudah could be easily targeted, “because he’s a red-head, and very tall,” and thus stands out.
Glick was hospitalized at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center where his condition was stabilized, doctors said. Dr. Ofer Naim, the head of the hospital’s trauma unit, said Glick was in the final stages of surgery to save his life and would need an additional operation on Thursday. Naim described bullet wounds to the stomach and lungs and said Glick’s life remained in danger.
Picture of Yehuda Glick just before he was shot this evening pic.twitter.com/X9KdOXYuIA
— News_Executive (@News_Executive) October 29, 2014
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who was at the event, said the incident was “terrible but quite expected.
“Yehudah Glick was threatened all the time. The fact that permanent security was not assigned to him is a failure,” he said.
Feiglin also said he would go up to the Temple Mount on Thursday at 8 a.m.
Fellow right-wing MK Miri Regev was also at the event.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a proponent of a Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, said that the bullets fired at Glick “were aimed at all Jews who wish to pray on the Temple Mount,” i24 news reported. He also demanded open Jewish access to the site in response.
Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem set off fireworks in celebration.
Several dozen Israelis demonstrated outside the Begin Center Wednesday night, wrapping themselves in Israeli flags and calling on police to “eliminate terror.”
US-born Yehudah Glick, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Othniel, near Hebron, previously worked as the executive director of the Temple Institute, an organization that prepares vessels and garments for a future Jewish temple, before joining the Temple Mount Faithful.
Glick was arrested last October, and barred by police from the Temple Mount, according to the Forward. The decision was reversed after a 12-day hunger strike.
“I believe that the Temple Mount represents a place that has potential for being an international center for religious tolerance,” he told the Forward.
While police said they were investigating all possibilities regarding the motive for the attack, the prevailing suspicion was that the attempted murder was politically motivated.
The shooting came amid weeks of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem. Last week a Palestinian man drove a car into a crowded train platform located along the seam separating East and West Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old girl and a woman. In the days following, Palestinians have clashed continuously with Israeli police in Arab neighborhoods of the capital. Israel responded to the rise in violence by increasing its police presence, deploying an additional 1,000 officers to the city.
The shooting also took place as diplomats convened a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the growing tensions in Jerusalem.