Yeshiva students try to block Christian Mass in Jerusalem

Police disperse dozens of radicals barricaded inside King David’s Tomb and denying entry to Greek Orthodox worshipers

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An Ethiopian Christian man poses for a picture alongside Orthodox Jewish worshipers at King David's Tomb, near Zion Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Ethiopian Christian man poses for a picture alongside Orthodox Jewish worshipers at King David's Tomb, near Zion Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A group of Jewish radicals was forcibly dispersed Monday from a holy site adjacent to the Old City in Jerusalem after they attempted to prevent Greek Orthodox Christians from holding Mass there in celebration of the holiday of Pentecost.

Led by Rabbi Shalom Arush of the Breslov Hassidic sect, approximately 100 yeshiva students barricaded themselves inside King David’s Tomb for the second consecutive day, and blocked Christians from entering the complex that houses both the tomb and the traditional site of the Last Supper.

Police who were called to the scene dispersed the activists and allowed the Christian service to proceed in keeping with the site’s delicate status quo, which allows Christians to hold services there three times a year.

In a video posted online Monday morning, police can be seen escorting members of the Greek Orthodox community inside the building for their annual service.

The protest occurred one day after the demonstrators attempted to prevent Armenian Orthodox Christians from entering the complex to hold their annual Pentecost service.

According to a report in Haaretz, police placated the Jewish radicals and allowed the service to proceed in a limited capacity.

Arush, who heads the Kiseh Rahamim yeshiva, presented police with a number of conditions for the Christian worshipers, which they conveyed to the worshipers as an order, the report said. The group of worshipers allowed to participate in the mass was limited to 10 people, who were prohibited from bringing incense or candles or crucifixes inside the building, according to the report.

A police spokesperson, however, denied any limitations were placed on the Christians.

“There are always extremists who try to disrupt the status quo,” Asi Aharoni, of the Jerusalem District Police, told The Times of Israel. “However, we try to be as sensitive as possible while doing our job of providing safe and equal access to holy sites in accordance with the law.”

Aharoni said no arrests were made on either day.

The building, which also housed a mosque, is also part of a decades-old property dispute between Israel and the Vatican.

Fueled by rumors of an impending transfer of sovereignty to the Vatican, tensions between Jewish radicals and Christians have ignited over the last year.

Ahead of Pope Fancis’s visit last April, more than 1,000 Jews gathered on Mount Zion for a concert and prayer rally, which was intended to send a message that the site would remain under Jewish control.

Despite official assurances that Israel does not intend to hand the site over to the Vatican’s sovereignty, the idea that Jerusalem will transfer control of the site has gained traction in some religious circles.

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