Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the 78 year old founder of the Temple Institute and a former Israeli paratrooper who took part in Israel's liberation of Temple Mount in 1967, has been banned from entering the holiest Jewish site by Israeli Police.
Ariel was informed of the ban last week after attempting to visit the site. Although an official reason was not given at the time, the Rabbi was told by police officers that he was banned indefinitely.
A spokesman for the Jerusalem Police told the Jewish Press that the rabbi conducted himself in a manner which is not in compliance with the law and a criminal investigation has been launched against him.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute, wrote an email in response to a Jewish Press inquiry, saying: "The Israel Police's recent shift of policy towards Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount is a throwback to the dark ages of totalitarian rule. The draconian, illegal suppression of Jewish presence, prayer and identification is a stain on this great country's record of democracy. While on the one hand, the State of Israel champions human rights and pluralism, the treatment of Jews on the Temple Mount bespeaks utter contempt, insensitivity to religious feelings, and a brutal quashing of the most basic human rights."
Rabbi Chaim Richman added that "it is inconceivable that Jews are treated as criminals for expressing a desire to pray at their holiest site. It is equally unconscionable that Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who served with the paratroopers that liberated the Temple Mount in the 1967 Six Day War, risking his life and burying his comrades for the sake of the Jewish sovereignty of the Temple Mount, should be served with an order distancing him from the Temple Mount indefinitely. His 'crime' was giving thanks to God, in that very spot – for the return of the site to the Jewish people. Has it indeed returned to the Jewish people? Is the Temple Mount 'in our hands?' Every day that this situation is allowed to continue is a step backwards for the State of Israel."
The harsh police move is thought by a source at the Temple Institute to be related to a You Tube video showing a large group of Jews who ascended the mount with Rabbi Ariel on Jerusalem Day, to celebrate 45 years since the liberation of the site.
In addition to Rabbi Ariel, a number of other Jewish worshipers that visited the site on Jerusalem day and are seen in the video have also been banned.
The video shows a large gathering of Jews who were able to pray, sing and say blessings while on the Temple Mount, for the first time in many years, unhindered by nearby police. The contingency of Jewish worshipers was led by Knesset members Michael Ben Ari and Uri Ariel, as well as by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute, and other prominent rabbis and public figures.
On the video, Rabbi Ariel can be heard saying, "I have waited forty five years to be able to say the Shehechianu (lit. "He who has kept us alive," a blessing of thanksgiving) here on the Temple Mount."
His prayer of thanks is then followed by a memorial prayer for his fallen comrades who lost their lives in the mission to liberate Temple Mount during the Six Day War. The group was accompanied by journalists and cameramen from Israel's major news outlets. The worshipers exited the Mount singing. No violence or protest occurred.
Here is the video that is thought to have led to Rabbi Ariel's ban:
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