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Activist arrested on suspicion of planning animal sacrifice on Temple Mount

Police detained Raphael Morris, head of the Return to the Mount movement, which calls for the return of the ancient practice.

Jewish men take part in a sacrifice procession ('korban' in Hebrew) at the Cardo in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 10, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
Jewish men take part in a sacrifice procession ('korban' in Hebrew) at the Cardo in the Old City of Jerusalem, March 10, 2016. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

Israeli police on Monday arrested a Jewish activist on suspicion of planning to perform a Passover sacrifice on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Raphael Morris, the head of the Return to the Mount movement, was detained while driving with his son near Latrun, some 16 miles west of Jerusalem, the group said in a statement.

The activist has in previous years been detained ahead of Passover, in a preemptive move by Israeli authorities to prevent the revival of the ancient Israelite practice of conducting Qorban Pesach, the ritual slaughter of a lamb or a goat at the Temple in Jerusalem on the eve of Passover, which this year falls on Wednesday.

While still practiced by the Beta Israel, Karaite and Samaritan communities, Rabbinic Jews do not perform the sacrifice although there are growing calls to revive the practice. A letter signed by 15 rabbis last month and addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for Jews to be allowed to once again carry out the ritual.

Members of the Samaritan community prepare to start animal sacrifices as they mark Passover at their most sacred site on Mount Gerizim, in the Samarian city of Nablus, April 14, 2014. Photo by Itay Cohen/Flash90.

“We want to offer the Passover sacrifice in its rightful place and at its rightful time despite all the difficulties,” the rabbis said in the letter. “We ask to open the Temple site to allow the emissaries of the people of Israel to renew the sacrifice.”

A request is made every year by the Return to the Mount movement for Jews to gather at the site where the holy Temples are believed to have stood to revive the practice.

Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab media that the group’s announcement this year was “very dangerous” and vowed that mosque authorities would stop Jews from conducting the ritual.

The calls to perform the ritual slaughter led the Western Wall Chief Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch to introduce a ban on bringing animals to the Mughrabi Bridge entrance to the Temple Mount used by Jews and other non-Muslims.

On Sunday, Ben-Gvir told reporters that he did not support sacrificing animals on the Temple Mount.

“I’m not encouraging people to go there with a Passover sacrifice,” he said.

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