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.
The rededication comes as security measures in the Old City and elsewhere in east Jerusalem are at a peak.
A shaky calm has held since the weekend’s clashes between security personnel and Palestinian youths in the Muslim Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods, although rumors regarding the synagogue, together with the perceived implications its reconstruction holds for the Temple Mount, continue to propagate.
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.
The police chief said he was concerned that the incitement to violence could lead to an “unnecessary escalation” in the capital.
Cohen said police were “deployed with increased forces around Jerusalem, due to continuous intelligence and joint evaluation meetings with other domestic security elements,” and that police were ready to deal with “every potential incident and scenario.”
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.
News that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would not attend
Monday’s ceremony fueled speculation he had decided to skip the event,
in an effort to avoid conflict with the Obama administration, after a
diplomatic storm erupted with the US last week regarding construction
over the Green Line in the capital.
A spokeswoman from the Prime Minister’s Office, however, denied that Netanyahu had ever planned on going to the re-dedication.
spokeswoman said that the prime minister “didn’t go to every synagogue
dedication, and he hadn’t planned on going to this one.”Yaakov Lapin, Herb Keinon, Khaled Abu Toameh and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.