Temple Movement urges Jews to 'conquer' al-Aqsa
The gathering was spurred by the killing of Hallel Ariel, a 13-year-old Israeli girl who was stabbed to death in her bed by a Palestinian man in an occupied West Bank settlement ten days before.
Following her death, Ariel's parents called for mass Jewish ascension to Islam's third holiest site, where religious Zionists want to build a temple as part of their vision of a theocratic monarchy.
"We did not come this morning to cry. We have cried enough, and we still will," Hallel Ariel's mother, Rina, said to the crowd. "Our daughter's heart was stabbed. Together with you, we strengthen the heart of the nation. This here is the heart of the nation. Arise with us, we will ascend."
"Once we light the world, then we can drive out the darkness with force," Amichai Ariel, Hallel's father remarked. "This black fire threatens the world, we will drive it out. This is a new planet of light - not from Auschwitz, and not from the Kaaba [Islamic shrine in Mecca]."
|Flanked by leading Temple Movement figures, Amichai and Riva Ariel urge sympathizers to enter the al-Aqsa compound in memory of their slain daughter
Top Temple Movement figures attended, including Yehuda Etzion, who attempted to explode the Dome of the Rock in 1984, and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who heads the state-funded Temple Institute and has proselytised for genocide of the Middle East and beyond.
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel, Members of Parliament Bezalel Smotrich and Oren Hazan, former Member of Parliament Moshe Feiglin and Jerusalem city council member Aryeh King attended and spoke too.
But most vocal was newly appointed member of Israel's parliament and leading Temple Movement figure Yehuda Glick, who compared the killing of Hallel Ariel to the biblical story of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac.
"With our forefather Abraham, you returned Isaac to him. With us, you took Hallel."
Glick urged the Temple Movement members to not be deterred by the gruesome killing of the teenage girl.
"We of all people know that when the State of Israel was established, there were many disappointments. But now look back. We built this country thanks to those who did not give up! Who were not affected by the disappointments!"
Glick also implored revelers to ascend to the compound in a hostile takeover.
|Glick implored revelers to ascend to the compound in a hostile takeover
"Everyone must take on becoming the one who conquers the Temple Mount! Yes, conquering improves! Conquering strengthens! Conquering gives us power! Conquering brings us closer to god!"
Glick's comments come weeks after he threatened a holy war that would destroy al-Aqsa.
|Member of Israeli parliament Yehuda Glick speaks to Temple Movement followers before they enter the al-Aqsa compound
Other notable figures appeared too, including Bentzi Gopstein, who heads the anti-miscegenation group Lehava, Matan Peleg, director of the fascist organization Im Tirtzu, and Hillel Weiss, a Bar Ilan University professor who has called for genocide of Palestinians.
After initial speeches, fifty settlers including Ariel's parents escorted by police entered the al-Aqsa compound. There, police allowed them to openly pray – a significant step forward in the Temple Movement’s strategy to transform Israel’s current ethnocratic parliamentary system into a full-fledged kingdom of god.
Since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, Jewish law has banned any Jewish presence – let alone prayer – at the site, punishable by a divinely-imposed death penalty.
While the Israeli government allows Jews to visit the al-Aqsa compound, it has banned Jewish prayer because it is seen by Muslims as an encroachment on the holy site that would trigger violence.
In 2008, then public security minister Avi Dichter warned that Jewish prayer at the compound "will serve as a provocation... with a near certain likelihood of subsequent bloodshed."
This assessment led Israeli police in 2012 to deem Glick, "the most dangerous man in the Middle East."
The current public security minister, Gilad Erdan, is from the same political faction as Glick, and has been far more accommodating to the Temple Movement's agenda.
Nonetheless, the Temple Movement has waged an aggressive anti-police propaganda campaign and mounted legal challenges to repeal the ban on prayer.
Though they have had limited success, the murder of Hallel Ariel provided the pretext to de-facto overturn the ban.
|Though they have had limited success, the murder of Hallel Ariel provided the pretext to de-facto overturn the ban
Until Tuesday, Jews who did pray openly were typically, though not always, removed from the compound by police.
"It's the first time I know that the police and the people in charge did not dare arrest Jews for praying," said Daisy Stern, a resident of the Kiryat Arba settlement where Hallel Ariel was murdered. "I mean, we prayed openly!"
As the gathering concluded, Israeli police closed off the main entrances to the Muslim quarter.
A burst of small explosions could be heard throughout the old city, though it was unclear what caused them.
For the Temple Movement, establishing the ability to pray at al-Aqsa compound is a step forward in a process that would ultimately lead to the abolition of prayer altogether.
|For the Temple Movement, establishing the ability to pray at al-Aqsa compound is a step forward in a process that would ultimately lead to the abolition of prayer altogether
In the times of the temple, ritual animal sacrifice was the form of worship. After its destruction in 70 AD, prayer was created to attempt to imitate the experience of worship through animal sacrifice.
One of the Temple Movement's main activities to create temple culture is practicing and perfecting ritual sacrifice in an effort to be prepared for the eventual building of the temple.
Thus Temple Movement members demanding the "right to pray" is wholly ironic.
Glick's assessment that Yallel Ariel's grisly murder was a sacrifice was shared by revelers.
"Thank god I had the opportunity to go pray up there," Stern said.
"It's all thanks to Rina and Amichai… It's an unbelievable price they had to pay – to have their daughter butchered in her bed like an animal. And so thanks for their amazing sacrifice.
The time has come. I think the geulah [arrival of the messiah] is so close. Things are changing and now the Jewish people is rising up."
Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He is co-producer of the upcoming documentary Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @dancohen3000.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.