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Police Prevent Jewish Rally at Holy Site in Jerusalem

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Israeli police officer orders a right wing Israeli activist not to display a poster depicting an imagined "Third Jewish Temple" on the site of Islamic Al Aqsa Mosque compound
Israeli police have blocked a demonstration by Jewish militants who tried to go up to a disputed holy site in Jerusalem to protest the Israeli government's plan to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle Jewish settlements.

About 3,000 Israeli police and soldiers deployed in and around Jerusalem's Old City to keep Israeli ultra-nationalists from marching on the Temple Mount. As the site of the biblical Temples, it is the holiest place for the Jewish people.

But Israel feared an eruption of violence, because the compound is home to the al Aqsa Mosque the third-holiest place in Islam. In the end, only a small number of Jewish protesters made it to the nearby Western Wall.

"Several-dozen right-wing Israelis are dancing here at the Western Wall on a tense day in Jerusalem," he said. "They are singing nationalist songs next to the walkway that goes up to the Temple Mount, but the gate is shut tight, under the watchful guard of police in riot gear."

Police described the rally as a provocation, but demonstrators denied it. Chushim ben Dan said the Palestinian Muslims are threatening violence, not the Jews.

"They are the bullies, not us. We just want our rights to pray here. And we want our rights to be here," he said.

Avraham Voldinger told VOA that it is time, as he put it, to liberate the Temple Mount.

"God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and it is ours," he said.

Palestinian shopkeeper Ramadan Maswadi sees things differently.

"I think they do not have the right to go there, and this is belong for Muslim people, it do not belong for Jewish," said Mr. Maswadi.

The Jewish protesters were apparently hoping to provoke a violent Palestinian response that would scuttle Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip this summer, and evacuate eight-thousand Jewish settlers. Cynthia Freedman was among the protesters.

"First of all, it is against human rights and the basic laws of Israel to take a whole bunch of people, who have not done any harm, and throw them out of their homes," she said.

But since the demonstrators never got to the Temple Mount, there was no serious violence, and the Gaza pullout is still on track. Mr. Sharon will discuss his "disengagement" plan when he meets Monday with President Bush at his Texas.

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