Economy Minister Naftali Bennett hit back at Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Friday for saying Jews must stop their attempts to visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, calling these trips a provocation and indicating they were the cause of recent terror attacks in the capital.
“No, honorable chief rabbi. Jewish blood was spilled because Arabs killed them,” Bennett wrote on Facebook Friday afternoon.
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin also criticized the rabbi’s comments, calling the Temple Mount “the most sacred place for the Jewish people, the heart of hearts of our capital.”
“If we withdraw from there, where will we be?” he said, according to Israel Radio, adding that Jewish prayer at the site is necessary.
The Temple Mount houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque — where recent clashes between Israel Police and Palestinians have escalated tensions in the city — and is revered by Jews as the location of the biblical Jewish temples. It is considered Judaism’s holiest place and Islam’s third holiest site.
Under the present arrangement, the site remains under Jordan’s custodianship — as part of the 1994 peace agreement — and Jews are allowed in the compound, but are barred from religious worship or prayer, as they have been since Israel captured the Old City in the 1967 war.
Earlier Friday, Yosef called for Jewish visitors to stop accessing the Temple Mount in order to restore calm to the capital after weeks of violence and religious clashes surrounding the holy site.
“We need to stop the incitement provoked by people going to the Temple Mount,” Yitzhak said at the funeral of 17-year-old Shalom Ba’adani, who was critically injured in Wednesday’s car attack in Jerusalem and died of his wounds Friday.
“Jews must not go to the Temple Mount and provoke the Arab terrorists,” he said. “This must be stopped…only in this manner shall the blood of the people of Israel stop being spilled.”
Yosef reiterated the belief held by many senior Jewish figures that visiting the Temple Mount is forbidden by God.
“Fourth-rate rabbis cannot dispute (the rulings of) the sages of Israel,” Yosef stated.
Yeshiva student Shalom Ba’adani had been on his way to the Western Wall when 48-year-old Ibrahim al-Akary plowed into pedestrians at a light rail station along the seam-line between East and West Jerusalem.
Ba’adani, a nephew of prominent Shas Rabbi Shimon Ba’adani, sustained serious head injuries and was treated at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem before succumbing to his wounds, thus raising to two the number of people killed in the attack. Ba’adani’s funeral was also attended by Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and fromer leader MK Eli Yishai.
Police braced for another heated day in the capital Friday surrounding Muslim prayers on the Temple Mount and said, after receiving information on impending riots, that they would limit entrance to the site.
Security forces were spread out in increased numbers throughout the Old City and East Jerusalem, and only men over the age of 35 were allowed into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound due to intelligence on Palestinian youths’ intentions to foment unrest there. Women of all ages were allowed access.
Tensions in the capital have been boiling in recent weeks, with East Jerusalem and West Bank residents demonstrating and rioting in response to their fears that Israel seeks to change the status quo of the Temple Mount and allow Jews to pray there.
The situation has also led to several Palestinian terror attacks and an assassination attempt against a prominent Israeli right-wing activist.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed officials Thursday to demolish the homes of the terrorists who had perpetrated attacks in Jerusalem, according to Israel Radio.
The prime minister’s directive came a day al-Akry drove his van into a group of pedestrians at a light rail station in the capital, killing a Druze Border Police officer and Ba’adani and injuring a dozen other people. A similar hit-and-run attack took place two weeks earlier at another train station along the seam-line when an East Jerusalem man drove his car onto a platform, killing two, including a three-month old, and injuring several. Both attackers were killed by police.
On October 29, Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick was shot outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in central Jerusalem by an Arab employee of the center, who was later killed by police during an attempt to arrest him.
On Thursday evening, dozens of right-wing Jewish activists marched toward the Old City, as heavy clashes between police and Arab residents of East Jerusalem persisted.
“We are proudly marching with high heads to the direction of the Temple Mount. God willing, we’ll get there,” organizer Ariel Groner told AFP at the site where a Palestinian recently tried to assassinate Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a campaigner for Jewish prayer rights at the compound.
Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed in past days that there will be no change to the present arrangement, and spoke Thursday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to reiterate his stance.