Extremist Jewish group calls for demolition of Dome of the Rock
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An extremist Jewish organization on Thursday invited Israeli right-wing activists to participate in a rally calling for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, Hebrew-language Israeli news sites reported.
The Temple Institute -- dedicated to building the Third Jewish Temple in the place of the Dome of the Rock -- organized the rally in an effort to place pressure on the Israeli government to demolish Muslim facilities in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to the reports.
The rally is expected to start at Zion Square in West Jerusalem before heading to the Al-Aqsa compound where the right-wingers plan to light candles to commemorate the fifth night of Hanukah.
The Temple Institute reportedly distributed dozens of t-shirts calling for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock prior to the rally.
One of the t-shirts handed out displayed an image of a lift carrying the Dome of the Rock with a caption reading “waste removal.”
The Dome of the Rock -- located in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- is the third holiest site in Islam, and is venerated as Judaism's most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.
The Temple Institute is one of a handful of extremist Israeli organizations who critics say are gaining traction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.
Controversial Israeli right-winger Yehuda Glick is a major figure in the Temple Institute, which has reportedly received $600,000 shekels ($155,300) in monetary support over the past five years from Israel’s Ministry of Education.
The figure was released Thursday in an investigation conducted by Israeli daily Haaretz. The report also revealed that Netanyahu’s defense minister, Eli Ben-Dahan, personally donated thousands of dollars to the Temple Institute.
Such extremist groups have created a rift within Israeli society while triggering frustration from Palestinian groups.
Increased numbers of Jewish worshipers touring compound in September -- accompanied by restrictions on Palestinian worshipers -- played a major role in triggering a wave of violence across occupied Palestinian territory at the beginning of October.
Many Palestinians fear that Israel is seeking to renege on a longstanding agreement preventing non-Muslim prayer in the compound, although Israeli leadership has denied that this is the case.
On Wednesday evening, a former member of the Jewish Underground -- a right-wing group that also plotted for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock -- was injured in a drive-by shooting in the occupied West Bank.