Religious extremists pushing for Jews to be allowed to pray at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount are pledging to step up their efforts, with one group offering to pay $516 to any Jew arrested for praying there.
Returning to the Mount, a group that advocates for Jewish sovereignty over the holy site and the rebuilding of the ancient temple there, has launched the campaign to pay Jewish worshipers, Channel 2 reported Tuesday, according to the Times of Israel.
Yehuda Glick, head of another group pushing for more Jews to pray on the mount, the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, told the Associated Press that Jewish visits to the site have increased by 20 percent each year for the last five years. Glick predicted that there will have been 14,000 Jewish visits to the site by the end of 2015.
“When we have 100,000 Jews visiting the Temple Mount, we will be able to demand Jewish prayer,” Yehuda Glick told the AP.
According to the AP, last year approximately 10,000 Jews visited the site, compared to 200 or 300 annually a decade ago.
The Temple Mount, which is adjacent to the Western Wall and was the site of the two ancient Jewish temples, is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Israeli law and Jewish law, as interpreted by Israel’s chief rabbinate, prohibit Jews from praying there.
The recent wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank was triggered in part by Palestinian claims that Israel was attempting to take over the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located. Earlier this month, a rabbi with the Sephardic Shas party’s Council of Torah Sages said that Jews visiting the Temple Mount “sparked” the recent tensions.
Activists like Glick, who was shot by a Palestinian last fall, have in recent years gained support from some Orthodox Jews and members of Israel’s government. Glick is a member of the Likud party slate, but is not a Knesset member.
This week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue to forbid Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, two Israeli deputy ministers said they would like to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount. Netanyahu’s office condemned those comments.
Glick and other activists said the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount has increased even amid the recent wave of violence.
There are currently 27 separate organizations dedicated to increasing the Jewish presence at the site, the AP reported, citing the United Temple Mount Movement, an umbrella organization.