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An attempt to slaughter an animal for a Passover sacrifice atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has led to the arrest of eight Jews and a new wave of criticism against the Israeli government.
According to local media, eight Jews were taken into custody Monday as they ascended the mount, considered the holiest site in Judaism where two of God's temples once stood. They were carrying a goat and were reportedly seeking to slay the animal in accordance with biblical instructions.
Historically, Passover first debuted in Old Testament times when God commanded Moses and the Israelites to offer the sacrifice as they embarked on the Exodus out of Egyptian slavery. God said he would "pass over" the Israelites who obeyed his instructions, while He would slay the firstborn children and animals in Egypt.
The animal sacrifice was continued in the New Testament, as Jesus Himself ate a Passover meal along with his apostles at the famous "Last Supper," among other instances.
"The sacrifice is supposed to take place on the Temple Mount, which is the site of the two former Holy Temples of Jerusalem but which today is occupied by the Islamic Al Aqsa Mosque complex," Israel National News reported. "By order of the Islamic Waqf authorities who administer the site, Jews are forbidden from praying or carrying out any other religious rituals on their holiest site, in what activists have repeatedly condemned as a capitulation by police to Muslim extremists."
Ynet News reported the suspects were taken in to a nearby police station for further questioning, and the goat was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Among those detained was Noam Federman, who blasted the arrests as an "embarrassment" to the State of Israel.
"It is a mark of shame that the government of Israel is directing a regime of racism against Jews on the Temple Mount. They (Jews) are forbidden to pray and even prevented from carrying out the mitzvot (Torah commandments) of the [Passover] festival," Federman told Israel National News.
The paper noted the Temple Organizations Headquarters, which represents several Jewish-rights groups, condemned the arrests as "a severe blow to freedom of religion, the Basic Law of Freedom of Worship, the holy places and the rule of law in Jerusalem."
"The time has come to allow Jews to act as a free people in the State of Israel, without worrying about or surrendering to Islamist threats," the group continued, referring to threats of violence by Islamist groups if Jews are granted equal prayer rights on the Temple Mount.
In fact, there have been at least two violent outbursts at the Temple Mount just this week.
Wednesday morning, Israeli police stormed the area to calm a riot by dozens of Palestinian youth. Haaretz reports officers used gas and stun grenades to disperse the riot and stop the protesters from barricading themselves inside of the mosques.
One officer was reportedly injured during stone-throwing by the protesters, and some 25 people were hurt during the riot, with one in serious condition and 15 with moderate injuries.
Israel Today reported on a previous clash Sunday, noting two Israeli police officers were wounded when Muslim rioters attacked them and possibly other Jewish visitors. One observer explained the use of dozens of Molotov cocktails indicated the riot was premeditated, and not some spontaneous response to any Israeli provocation.
Last week, two U.S. congressmen visited the Temple Mount in stealth fashion with a group of religious Jews to assess the situation.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, told Israel National News the visit left him "shocked and disturbed."
Johnson also focused on the Waqf (Islamic Trust) official who tailed his group, seeming to exercise unwarranted influence over the Israeli police.
"This thug followed us everywhere we went and if we stopped and took too long in one place he would look at the Israeli police, who would say 'you need to keep your group moving,'" the congressman said.