JERUSALEM (Mar. 8)
The presence of Jerusalem riot police and the restraining influence of Moslem elders, prevented a possible violent clash between Jews and Arabs on the Temple Mount last night. A group of right-wing nationalist Israelis, led by Herut City Councilman Gershon Solomon and Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz, dispersed peacefully after attempting to hold a prayer meeting at the Islamic shrine. Arab youths, some of them armed with sticks and stones, also left the area at the persuasion of elderly Moslem worshippers.
The Temple Mount, where Solomon’s Temple once stood and which is now the site of the Mosque of Omar and El Aksa Mosque, has become a trouble spot in East Jerusalem. A local magistrate ruled in January that the government’s ban on Jewish religious rites there was illegal and since then several rightist groups have held prayer services on the site, sparking Arab riots in East Jerusalem and in major West Bank towns. The government has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court and it is expected to be overturned. Meanwhile, Jerusalem police have served notice that they intend to enforce the ban.
Police Chief David Kraus told the Israeli militants last night that their prayer service could trigger a breach of the peace and he intended to prevent it by all means. He backed up his warning with police squads. Councilman Solomon pledged that his group would return and Kraus said if they did, so would the police. The would-be worshippers were rightist nationalists rather than strictly religious. Orthodox Jews are forbidden by halachic law to enter the Temple Mount area.