Israeli police arrested an IDF officer Tuesday morning, accusing him of planning to carry out a traditional Jewish holiday ritual at a contested site on the eastern edge of the Old City of Jerusalem.
A group of Jewish activists, including Religious Zionist Party MKs Simcha Rothman and Michal Woldiger, gathered near the Eastern Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem Tuesday morning, in order to sound the shofar ahead of the Yom Kippur holiday, which begins Tuesday at sundown.
For the past three years, Jewish activists have sounded the shofar at the Eastern Wall’s Golden Gate, also known as the Gate of Mercy.
The Golden Gate, which faces the Mount of Olives, is believed in Jewish tradition to be the entrance through which the Messiah will enter the Old City.
To dispel Jewish expectations of a messianic redemption, the Ottoman Turks sealed off the Golden Gate and later established a cemetery on its eastern side, just outside of the Old City.
Police have argued that performing the traditional sounding of the shofar near an area used as a Muslim cemetery is a provocation to the local Muslim Arab population.
On Sunday, police arrested Temple Mount activist Emanuel Brosh outside of the Golden Gate – the third time in less than a month that Brosh has been taken into custody for attempting to blow a shofar at the site.
Despite police efforts to restrict Jewish access to the area, however, on Monday the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court tossed out a request to ban Brosh from the Golden Gate, ordering police to pay Brosh 2,000 shekels for his legal expenses.
Police again intervened Tuesday, arresting an officer from the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit. MKs Rothman and Woldiger were not taken into custody, due to their parliamentary immunity.
“The police are abusing a law-abiding citizen and have detained a Sayeret Matkal officer whose only crime is having been suspected of blowing the shofar in a public place, at a time when there is no legal prohibition or ban on sounding the shofar,” said MK Rothman.
“Blowing the shofar in a path which leads to the Golden Gate does not disturb the peace and does not bother anyone, except for the Israel Police, who are making the laws themselves.”
MK Woldiger also condemned the arrested, saying: “The only one creating a ruckus is the police department, which has selectively chosen whom to detain and interrogate and whom not to, while running roughshod over citizens’ right to go to a place that is holy to them on the eve of Yom Kippur.”