JERUSALEM (AP)—A fringe group of extremist rabbis wants to resume the biblical practice of animal sacrifice at an explosive religious site in Jerusalem, members said Wednesday.
The request defied centuries of religious bans and triggered a stiff protest from a Muslim leader.
When the Jewish Temples stood in the Old City of Jerusalem more than 2,000 year ago, animal sacrifice was a centerpiece of the religion. After the destruction of the Temples, sacrifices were banned and rabbinical teachings took their place as the focus of Judaism.
Now a 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 at the Jerusalem site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
The site is the most hotly disputed in the Middle East, home today to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Israel captured the site in the 1967 war and turned day-to-day control over to the Muslim Religious Council, but Palestinians take the Jewish fringe groups seriously.
"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 Aqsa is a Muslim mosque."