Israeli Authorities: Jewish Men Tried to ‘Disturb Peace’ with Goats in Jerusalem
Israeli police are worried that attempts to carry out sacrifices in the Old City could spark tensions with Palestinians.
Friday marks the first night of Passover, the eight-day Jewish festival that honors Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.
At least seven Jewish men will be celebrating in police custody after they tried to sacrifice goats in the Old City of Jerusalem. The men, who were taken into custody Friday in a series of three arrests, have been charged with “disturbing the peace.”
The arrests followed temporary ban on right-wing activists from entering Jerusalem during the holiday after reports they planned to take goats to Temple Mount, where Jewish worship is forbidden. In ancient times, Jews sacrificed goats as part of the Passover holiday, but that tradition has been largely abandoned except among small numbers of Jews descended from those who once lived in Arab nations like Yemen.
The arrests come amid a spate of violence that has broken out between Israelis and Palestinians in recent months, in part because of fears that Jews were trying to increase their presence at the holy site, which is also home to the al-Aqsa mosque. It was not immediately clear whether the men arrested were members of those right-wing groups, or planned to carry out the sacrifices independently. At least four were minors.
“The police are working and will continue to work with determination against any attempt to disturb the public peace and security, without favoritism,” the Jerusalem police said in a statement this week. “We expect the public discourse during the holiday period to display tolerance and mutual respect.”
It’s not just goat sacrificers that are being asked to stay away from the mount. Last Sunday, Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging a ban on Knesset members visiting the area ahead of the holiday. “[It] is likely to result in an exacerbation of tensions and an escalation of incidents that would cause a real endangerment of the security of the state,” he wrote, adding that such visits could spark Palestinian anger and retribution violence.
Israel also closed off the West Bank in order to deter Hamas from launching attacks during the holiday.
Photo credit: GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images