Court nixes Passover lamb
sacrifice at Temple Mount

By Nadav Shargai and Amiram Barkat | | April 1, 2007 (Nisan 13, 5767)

In their efforts to sacrifice a live animal at the Temple Mount, the New Sanhedrin Council adopted an almost underground modus operandi. Rabbis Adin Steinsaltz, Israel Ariel, Yishai Baved and their associates secretly located a butcher, found a Cohen hailing from a lineage 1,000 years old and worked out a plan to quickly erect an alter on the Temple Mount.

They tried to revive the customs of the ancient Sanhedrin tribunal, which was the highest judicial body for the Jewish people in Israel some 1,600 years ago. They sought to slaughter a sacrificial animal across from the Western Wall.

The activists, who belong to various religious circles such as the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, also petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to perform the ritual.

Their plans were thwarted yesterday when the court rejected their request, ruling that “the rights of the petitioners to practice their faith are outweighed by other considerations such as public order and safety.”

Despite the ruling, the followers decided to hold a colorful procession yesterday in Jerusalem, heading to the Western Wall along with two sheep.

The Temple Mount Movement followers present were joined by partners from the Temple Institute, which has for years prepared the traditional holy tools and utensils for the Third Temple, according to Torah specifications.

The spectacular display did not, however, persuade authorities to allow the participants to perform the practice.

Their petition to the court was by no means the first one. In recent years, the High Court of Justice rejected several such petitions filed by the Temple Mount Movement and other associations, dedicated to erecting the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The court invariably cited the same reasons for its ruling.

On Passover 1991, dedicated believers decided it was time for action, and tried to sacrifice a lamb on the premises. They were, however, quickly stopped by police.

One of the most daring plans to perform the religious ritual at the holy site belongs to the ultra right-wing religious movement Kach. Some 20 years ago, its members worked out a plan to infiltrate the Western Wall Plaza at dusk with a lamb and foldable alter. The plan never materialized, partly owing to the fact that Passover that year coincided with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

Earlier and bolder still was the plan of the Temple Mount Movement to hire a helicopter pilot to parachute a ready-made alter onto the Western Wall Plaza. There, it would serve a group of followers on the ground, sacrificial lamb in hand. As in previous cases, the plan never quite took off the ground.