Leading Religious Zionist rabbis encouraged Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) to continue ascending the Temple Mount on Monday, after an MK blamed the minister for an increase in the violent Muslim rioting at Judaism's holiest site.
"These days, given the international intervention on our holy Temple Mount, and the discrimination and trampling of fundamental rights in this holy place – we wish to support your trips to the Temple Mount, as a Minister in Israel, in purity, to those places which are permitted [to visit – ed.]," the rabbis stated in a letter.
They added that Ariel's visits to the Mount fulfill a Biblical directive: 'Do not fear; do not be discouraged' (Devarim 1:21 – ed.) and hopes that his visits would help bring the permanent rebuilding of the Temple on the Mount.
The site has been under the iron grip of the Jordanian Waqf Muslim Authority since being liberated in 1967. Under longstanding regulations, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid "provoking tensions" with Muslims.
Notable signatories included, among others:
- Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of Yeshivat Bnei Akiva. Druckman does not personally endorse ascending the Temple Mount, which constitutes a difficult question in Jewish law, but chose to support those who do ascend;
- Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinowitz, Rosh Yeshiva (dean) in Ma'aleh Adumim;
- Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute;
- Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel, author of the book Otzrot Hare'iah (a collection of texts from Rabbi Kook – ed.);
- Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, rabbi of Samaria;
- Rabbi Benny Kalamzon, Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of Othniel;
- Rabbi Shmuel David, rabbi of Afula;
- Rabbi Dov Lior, rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron;
- and Rabbi David Dudkevitz, rabbi of Yitzhar.
MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism (UTJ) attacked Ariel last week for visiting the Mount on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on the same day violent clashes erupted between Muslim rioters and Israel Police.
A source close to Ariel confirmed to Arutz Sheva on Monday that Ariel had not released an official announcement of his visit nor spoken to the press before or after the rioting, thus removing him as the cause of blame for the clashes – which, in any event, have been increasing in frequency and intensity since before the holiday.
The clashes continued after the holiday as well, as once again masked Muslim youths gathered around the mosque and threw rocks and other projectiles at police who were forced to enter the compound in large numbers and respond with stun grenades.
Days ago, on Friday, a band of Muslim rioters attacked Israel Police at the Old City's Damascus Gate. Police were ready for the assault, as some 5,000 officers had been deployed Friday morning in anticipation of escalation on the Mount.
Israel has been widely condemned for defending itself from the Arab-incited riots.