Temple Mount Synagogue
'May Provoke A War'
From Ross Dunn in Jerusalem
Palestinian leaders warned Israel yesterday that a plan to build a synagogue on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem could provoke a war in the Middle East.
The warning came after the Chief Rabbinical Council announced that it was setting up a committee to "realise our rights and sovereignty on the Temple Mount". The decision appeared to be an attempt to avoid a confrontation with Muslims over what many regard as the most sensitive site in the Middle East.
Jews believe that their temples stood on the site, which is inside Jerusalem's walled Old City, in biblical times. To Muslims it is known as al-Haram al-Sharif, the "Noble Sanctuary", housing the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosques.
Ikrema Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, said that building a synagogue on the hill would start a war and "only God knows where it would lead".
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the most senior Islamic administrator at al-Haram al-Sharif, appealed to Israel: "Don't play with fire, this is not politics, this is religion, and if something happened, God forbid, you will find millions of Muslims willing to sacrifice their souls for our holy places."
The synagogue proposal was made by Shaar-Yeshuv Hacohen, the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, who opposes the view of most rabbinical authorities that Jews must not enter the Temple Mount because of its holiness and concerns about ritual purity. He also rejected suggestions that the issue should be debated only after a peace accord has been reached with the Palestinians. "I think that it should be negotiated before an agreement is reached," he said. "To the Jewish faith, the Temple Mount is the holiest place and we all pray towards that place and we should not give it away to any other people and any other religion."
Israeli police arrested four right-wing Jewish activists on the Temple Mount yesterday after Palestinians were reported to have seen a Jewish worshipper praying there. One activist was attacked by an Islamic official at the site.
Rabbis representing Jewish settlers have called for a ruling to forbid the Israeli Government from transferring any more land in the West Bank to the Palestinians. They say that the Government is not allowed to give away parts of the biblical land of Israel because God bequeathed the area solely to the Jewish people.
Israel's Chief Rabbinical Council said that the issue should be discussed at a meeting in Bet El, a settlement on the West Bank, but it did not set a date for the meeting.

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