An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a banner depicting Pope Francis, in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three yeshiva students who allegedly planned to disrupt Pope Francis’ mass at King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem Monday afternoon, were detained by police shortly before the ceremony began, police said.
Although few details of the youths’ activities have been made public, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, they were apprehended approximately one hour before mass for “planning a public disturbance.”
Rosenfeld said the students were affiliated with the 26 young Jewish activists arrested Sunday
for rioting at the holy site to protest Francis’s trip to Israel and alleged Israeli plans to hand over sections of King David’s Tomb to the Vatican.
Over 150 mostly teenage protesters – including at least one armed soldier – gathered at the contested area, believed to be the location of the Last Supper, at approximately 4 a.m. to denounce the pope’s scheduled Monday mass.
The mass has drawn the ire of a number of right-wing activists who hold the Church accountable for crimes against Jews during the Crusades and Inquisition.
Indeed, several previous protests have taken place at the site since the announcement of the pontiff’s historic visit, resulting in anti-Christian vandalism.
A room in the building, known as the Cenacle, is believed to be the site of the Last Supper.
Under Israeli law, Christians are permitted to pray there twice a year.
As a preemptive safety measure, following Sunday’s arrests, police barred four additional students from entering the site until the pope left the country.
Rosenfeld said the three students detained Monday have since been released, and despite the incident, hailed the two-day security measures implemented to protect the pope as a success.
“This was a successful twoday intensive security operation in coordination with Italian security and Israeli National Police,” he said of the operation that included over 8,000 officers. “The pope was escorted throughout his visits to all the historical sites without any incidents whatsoever.”
Rosenfeld said the successful undertaking was due in part to the Old City’s police intelligence center, which uses over 300 closed circuit television cameras to monitor all four quarters of the Old City.
“The security center was fully manned and operational throughout the visit, which gave us an overall view through the hundreds of cameras throughout the Old City of all movements on the ground,” he said.
“On a security level, this visit was very successful,” he continued. “Israeli police are experienced with events of this size and scale and left nothing to chance.”