A fringe group of extremist rabbis wants to resume the biblical practice of animal sacrifice at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, members said Wednesday, defying centuries of religious bans and triggering a stiff protest from a Muslim leader.
The group, called the "Re-established Sanhedrin" after the Temple-era religious high court, has decided to buy some sheep and try to find one that is ritually perfect for sacrifice, with an eye toward resuming the practice.
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"Regrettably, there are many extremist Israeli groups who want to carry out their plans," said Jerusalem's senior Islamic cleric, Mohammed Hussein. "Let them say what they want, Al Aksa is a Muslim mosque."
The 71 members of the "Re-established Sanhedrin" say they want to begin sacrificing animals again, despite the absence of the Temple, the ritual altar and all the required implements listed in the Bible. Rabbi Dov Stein of the group admitted that it won't be any time soon.
"We want to do the sacrifice, but we have political problems," Stein said. "We hope there will come a time when the government will agree. We will push for that to happen."
Other rabbis point out that ritual animal sacrifice has been banned since the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70.
"Around that time, animal sacrifice, as a mode of religious worship, stopped for Jews, Christians and Muslims," said Rabbi Doniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. "Moving back in that direction is not progress."