Monday, March 15, 2010

Jerusalem's Hurva synagogue, destroyed by the Arab Legion in 1948, reopens

From JPost, 14/03/2010, by ABE SELIG*:

Festivities kicked off on Sunday with the welcoming of a Torah scroll into the renewed house of prayer [Photo by: Associated Press]

Police brace for violence as Fatah official urges Palestinians to "converge on Al-Aksa."

Jerusalem’s historic Hurva Synagogue, which was last destroyed by Jordan’s Arab Legion on May 25, 1948, and has been rebuilt after nearly a decade of construction, will be rededicated during a ceremony in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter on Monday evening.

While festivities kicked off on Sunday with the welcoming of a Torah scroll into the renewed house of prayer, Monday evening’s ceremony will be the official reopening of the Hurva, which was first built in 1701 and has been destroyed and rebuilt twice.

...Palestinian clerics have claimed that the rebuilding of the Hurva would pave the way for plans by right-wing Jews to lay a cornerstone for the construction of the third temple on the Temple Mount – a rumor, based on an 18th-century rabbinic tradition purportedly declared by the Vilna Gaon, which has been brushed off by right-wing activists themselves as having been given a “certain poetic license.”

The Muslim clerics’ claims have been bolstered by a request filed with Jerusalem police last week to lay such a cornerstone. The request was filed by the Temple Mount Faithful – a group that actively seeks to rebuild the third temple on the holy site.

While police rejected the request out of hand and have also canceled all tourist visits to the site, the clerics’ warnings continued to build steam on Sunday, as top Fatah official and holder of its Jerusalem portfolio, Khatem Abd el-Kader, called on Palestinians to “converge on Al-Aksa to save it” from “Israeli attempts to destroy the mosque and replace it with the temple.”

Khader called the renovation of the Hurva a “provocation” and warned Israel that it was “playing with fire.”

Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen warned that incitement to violence by Palestinian elements could inflame an already tense situation in the capital.

Responding to the allegations that Al-Aksa Mosque was “in jeopardy,” Cohen held a special evaluation meeting with police brass on Sunday evening that was attended by Jerusalem Police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco. “Extreme statements and incitement do not match the reality on the ground. I expect all sides at this time to be responsible and to tone down their statements,” Cohen said at the end of the meeting.

...More than 3,000 security personnel have been deployed in the Old City and throughout east Jerusalem since Friday, and police announced on Sunday that the this would continue through Tuesday, and that only Muslim men above the age of 50 and women of any age would be permitted into the Temple Mount compound – a common step taken to reduce the potential for violence.

Friday’s decision by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to impose a general closure on Judea and Samaria has also been extended until Tuesday...

*Yaakov Lapin, Herb Keinon, Khaled Abu Toameh and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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