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Passover: Israeli groups call for animal sacrifice at Al-Aqsa Mosque

A letter signed by 15 rabbis renews demand to perform religious rituals on site where non-Muslim worship is forbidden, despite potential for Palestinian backlash
A member of the Temple Institute holds a one-year-old flawless goat in an enactment of the preparation for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice in the third Jewish Temple on 2 April 2012 during a display to the public in Jerusalem (AFP)
A member of the Temple Institute holds a goat in preparation for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem on 2 April 2012 (AFP)

Israeli rabbis and activists have renewed their calls to be allowed to conduct ritual animal slaughter at al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to mark Passover, which is set to start on 5 April.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third-holiest site in Islam and an area where non-Muslim prayers and rituals are forbidden according to decades-long international agreements.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Thursday, 15 rabbis said that it was in the "national interest" of Israel to be allowed to carry out the ritual.

"We want to offer the Passover sacrifice in its rightful place and at its rightful time despite all the difficulties,” they said.

"We ask to open the temple site to allow the messengers of the people of Israel to renew the sacrifice."

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Right-wing Israeli groups regularly call for animal sacrifice to be allowed during Passover on the al-Aqsa site, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount. This year Passover coincides with Ramadan.

Religious Jews believe that al-Aqsa was the location of two historical Jewish temples. All that remains of these is the Western Wall, which is regarded as the holiest site in Judaism.

Although the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem has long forbidden Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, some religious groups have called for Jews to be allowed to pray on the site.

Why is Jewish worship at al-Aqsa Mosque so controversial?
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While Israeli governments have long resisted such calls - fearing a massive backlash from the global Muslim community - a number of figures in the new Israeli government have supported allowing Jewish worship on the site.

After the 1967 war, Israel, and the custodian of the al-Aqsa Mosque, Jordan, agreed that while Jews would be allowed access to the site, they would not be allowed to pray there. 

In January, after a controversial visit to the site, Ben-Gvir claimed it was "racist" to prevent Jews from praying on the compound.

"The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. We maintain the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians and Jews,” he said, claiming he would not be cowed by "threats" from the Palestinian movement Hamas.

“Jews will also go up to the Temple Mount, and those who threaten us must be dealt with by an iron fist.”

Members of the Temple Movement, groups advocating for the creation of a Third Temple, have reportedly called on supporters to bring offerings and gather at the gates of al-Aqsa on 5 April to mark the beginning of Passover.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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