Religious Zionist rabbis have called for a mass demonstration in Jerusalem on Monday night to protest what they say is police harassment and an attempt to keep them away from the Temple Mount.
The organizers want to stage the protest at the Old City wall's Golden Gate and are arranging buses to bring in demonstrators from all over the country.
"Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen a decline in the realization of Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem in general and on the Temple Mount in particular," organizers said in a statement announcing the rally.
Rabbi Haim Druckman, a prominent figure in the religious Zionist movement, issued an open letter to encourage people to attend the rally and "declare their allegiance to Jerusalem and our Temple."
Other religious leaders supporting the protest include Kiryat Arba's chief rabbi, Dov Lior, and leading rabbis at several yeshivas in the West Bank: Re'em Hacohen of Yeshivat Otniel, Ya'acov Medan of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe.
Supporters of the rally say the police have been trying to keep Jews out of the Temple Mount. They say the police prevented a group from marching through the Old City's Lions Gate to the Western Wall plaza on Jerusalem Day, which took place in May. They also complain about restrictions on the practice of some to walk along the Old City walls and stop at each gate to celebrate Rosh Hodesh, which marks the beginning of each Hebrew month.
The sources said tension is running high between religious Zionist figures and the commander of the Jerusalem District police, Maj. Gen. Aharon Franco, and the officer in charge of the Temple Mount, Commander Avi Roif.
The rally's organizers said they were particularly incensed by two recent incidents in which they said police humiliated rabbis who wanted to go to the Temple Mount. In one incident, some 40 religious Zionist rabbis - including Lior and Daniel Shiloh, the former rabbi of the northern West Bank settlement of Kedumim - informed police in advance that they were planning to visit the site on Jerusalem Day. However, when they reached the entrance, they were told they could visit only in smaller groups of 15, which meant that some of the rabbis had to wait for a long time.
The rabbis said the security check was more extensive than usual, and that police prohibited a photographer from entering with them. MK Uri Ariel (National Union ), who was present, tried unsuccessfully to smooth things out.
"My feeling is that there is a change in the attitude of the police toward the religious Zionist camp," Ariel said yesterday. "I call on the police to go back to the understandings of all these years so as not to incite the public."
In the second incident, the police initially declined to approve a rabbi's visit to the Temple Mount unless he first met with a police officer and signed a pledge to heed police instructions.
Though he refused to sign the form, the police ultimately let him in, but rushed him through the site, the organizers said.
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