Rightist MK Ariel visits Temple Mount as thousands throng Wall
Police to maintain strong prescence in Jerusalem throughout week-long Sukkot holiday.
Senior legislator Uri Ariel of the rightist National Union-National Religious Party visited the Temple Mount on Monday morning, as tens of thousands of Jews took part in the annual 'priestly blessing' ceremonies held Monday at the adjacent Western Wall in Jerusalem.
According to Ariel, the time has come for Jews to stop praying at the Western Wall and to begin praying "where they're supposed to," an apparent reference to the Mount located directly above, where by tradition the ancient Jewish Temple stood.
Many rabbis forbid Jews from setting foot on the Mount, for fear of inadvertently transgressing prohibitions against standing on the area where the Holy of Holies was situated.
But right-wing activists have long maintained that Jews should gather and pray on the Mount, the site of the Muslim holy places the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
A September, 2000 visit by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon touched off Palestinian rioting that led to the outbreak of the intifada a few days later.
"Sukkot is the pilgrimage holiday," Ariel said. "When all of the people of Israel are praying in the mass blessings at the Wall, we have come to pray where Jews really need to do it."
"Our journey today is meant to remind the entire world, first and foremost the Israeli people, that the Temple Mount is the center and heart of the Jewish people," Ariel continued.
High-ranking rabbis took part in the prayers at the Wall, including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Police sources stated that they will remain deployed around the temple mount throughout Sukkot. Thousands of police have been deployed in the Old City and at the Wall, and security services have dispersed throughout the city in order to prevent clashes between Jewish and Muslim worshipers during the holiday.
The far-right Temple Mount Loyalists movement held its semi-annual traditional ceremony next to the Mercy Gate.
The ceremony passed without incident and the police said they saw no evidence of provocation on the part of the protestors.