Eight Jews were arrested Monday for attempting to sacrifice a goat on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site.
The group were making their way to the Mount in order to carry out the Pesach (Passover) Sacrifice, known as the Korban Pesach, on the eve of the seven-day festival. Jews are commanded to offer the sacrifice in commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, during which God killed all firstborn Egyptians whilst passing over firstborn Jews.
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.
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.
Nationalist activist Noam Federman, who was among those detained, slammed 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 Festival (of Pesach)."
The Temple Organizations Headquarters - an umbrella representing several Jewish rights groups - issued a stern condemnation, calling the arrests "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 added, referring to regular threats of violence by various Islamist groups if Jews are granted equal prayer rights on the Temple Mount.
A proposed law, tabled by the Religious Affairs Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home), is aiming to guarantee just that, and has drawn ire from both Islamist and leftist groups alike.
Jewish worshippers prevented from offering Korban Pesach: