JERUSALEM: Israeli police arrested five Jews suspected of trying to sacrifice a goat at Jerusalem’s highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem Monday as the Jewish Passover holiday begins, a spokeswoman said.
The five “extreme rightwing Jews” were dragging the goat towards the flashpoint compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount when they were stopped and taken into custody, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.
The incident took place as the seven-day holiday, in which traditionally a lamb or a kid is sacrificed, was to begin at sunset.
It commemorates the Exodus of the biblical Israelites from captivity in Egypt, including how God chose to kill all the first-born of Egypt to force the pharaoh to let the Israelites leave.
But he instructed the Israelites to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb so that he would know to pass over the first-born in them, hence the English name of the holiday.
The compound, in the walled Old City, houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques, and is the third most sacred site in Islam.
It is also venerated by Jews as the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and is where the priests of antiquity would have ritually reenacted the first slaughter.
Clashes frequently break out there between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
Muslims are intensely sensitive to any perceived threat to the status of the compound and many believe Jews are determined to build a new temple on the wide esplanade.
Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount.
Jewish fringe groups have vowed to build a third Temple, but Israeli political and religious authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea.