Photo Credit: Hillel Maeir / TPS
Minister Uri Ariel

by Andrew Friedman

All Israelis should visit the Temple Mount, said Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who served as the first head of the Beit El Regional Council during the 1980s.

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Ariel spoke on Tuesday evening, following a “trial” earlier in the day during which police allowed sitting MKs to visit the holy site for the first time since 2015.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of Beit El, an Israeli town located in Samaria, north of Jerusalem, Ariel also said he hoped the town, which is currently home to approximately 6,000 residents, eventually attracts enough Israelis to turn Beit El into a big enough city to make neighboring Ramallah (population 57,000) look like a small neighborhood by comparison.

The ceremony was attended by an A-list of right-wing politicians, rabbis and public figures including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, MKs Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home). It was also attended by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a former rabbi of the settlement and the current dean of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

Aviner, a prominent rabbinic voice in the settlement movement, is also a strident opponent of Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, believing that Jewish law (halacha) proscribes such visits.

Also attending the ceremony was Coalition Whip MK David Bitan, who told the gathering that Israel needs more settlement-minded pioneers to “solve the Bedouin problem” in the Negev.

Bitan, who has been called “[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s attack dog,” also appeared to criticize right-wing governments over the past four decades for the lack of growth in Beit El, but quickly fell back into his role by assuring residents that the prime minister will honor his commitment to market 300 homes in the community in the coming weeks.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely said the community is a “national symbol,” a point seconded by Deputy Defense Minister Ben-Dahan, who said the town was “firmly inside the Israeli consensus.”

Coalition Whip Bitan added that the community should serve as a model for a similar settlement project in the Negev in order to “solve the Bedouin problem” there.

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