Israeli settlers have renewed their calls to be allowed to perform ritual animal slaughter at the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to mark Passover, which begins on April 5.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and an area where non-Muslim prayers and rituals are prohibited according to decades of international agreements.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu and far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Thursday, 15 rabbis said it was in Israel’s “national interest” to allow the ritual to take place.
“We want to offer the Passover sacrifice in its right place and at the right time despite all the difficulties,” they said.
“We ask that the site of the temple be opened 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 at the al-Aqsa site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. This year Passover coincides with Ramadan.
Religious Jews believe that al-Aqsa was the site of two historic Jewish temples. All that remains of these is the Western Wall, considered the holiest site in Judaism.
Although the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem has long prohibited Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, some religious groups have called for Jews to be allowed to pray at the site.
Why is Jewish worship at al-Aqsa Mosque so controversial?
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Although Israeli governments have long opposed such calls – fearing a huge backlash from the global Muslim community – there are some figures in the new Israeli government who have supported allowing Jewish worship at the site.
After the 1967 war, Israel, and the custodian of the al-Aqsa Mosque, Jordan, agreed that although Jews would be allowed to enter 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 at the compound.
“The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. We keep the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians and Jews,” he said, claiming that he would not be coed 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 with an iron fist.”
Members of the Temple Movement, groups advocating the creation of a Third Temple, are said to have asked supporters to bring offerings and gather at the gates of al-Aqsa on April 5 to mark the start of Passover.