Israel Arrests 17 Far-right Jews Allegedly Attempting to Sacrifice Goats on Temple Mount for Passover

Fanatic group that seeks to dislodge Muslim presence from Jerusalem holy site attempted to carry out ancient Passover tradition

Onlookers at a Passover sacrifice near Jerusalem's Temple Mount, April 6, 2017.
Emil Salman

Seventeen people have been arrested for allegedly attempting to disturb the peace and policemen on duty while trying to smuggle baby goats onto the Temple Mount to reenact the Passover sacrifice. Six of the detainees were minors.

Six goats were rescued and handed over to the Agriculture Ministry’s investigative department, police say.

All day Monday police halted and searched cars entering the Old City of Jerusalem to foil activists from sacrificing baby goats according to ancient Passover traditions.

Earlier in the day the joint Temple Mount administration stated that police had detained 11 activists in the morning hours. Police later revised that number to 17.

The day before, seven activists, including Raphael Morris, head of the Return to the Mount movement, were arrested on suspicion of planning to reenact the Pesach sacrifice on Temple Mount. He was taken into custody Sunday from his home in the West Bank settlement Ahiya.

He was released, then arrested again on Monday.

Morris was also arrested a year ago after being caught carrying a young goat in Jerusalem’s Old City, and spent the first night of that Passover in jail.

Veteran anti-Arab militant arrested

The Temple Mount movements stated that all of the first 11 people arrested had indeed tried to approach the Temple Mount with the baby goats, but most were stopped at Jaffa Gate or Dung Gate, two of the multiple entrances into the Old City. Among them were Noam Federman, a veteran, militant anti-Arab activist, and his son. All were held briefly, then released.

Return to the Mount activists claim that beyond searches of their cars, the Old City home of one of their members was also raided.

“It is a terrible thing to realize that in our state, in our time, Jews are still being persecuted for their desire to fulfill Jewish mitzvot [commandments] and exercise their legal right,” stated Asaf Fried, spokesman for the Temple Mount organizations’ administration.

The police have been striving to prevent national-religious radicals from reaching the Temple Mount and sacrificing animals there for Passover. The activists were released with restrictions: They are banned from the Temple Mount, from slaughtering or sacrificing animals in the Old City, and moreover from bringing any animals to the Old City for the purpose of slaughter.

The police stated that it would continue to act firmly against those who try to upset the public order and disturb the peace: “The policemen deployed in the field are operating professionally to keep order and enable all the residents of the city and visitors, of all ethnicities and religions, to live safely,” the police spokesman said.