The Temple Institute, an organization whose self-declared goal is to "establish the Third Temple," claimed on Tuesday evening that it held a secret Jewish wedding on the Temple Mount in what could reignite hostilities at the sensitive holy site and elsewhere.
A post on the Temple Institute's Facebook page claims that Rabbi Chaim Richman, who manages the institute's international activity, accepted a request by a couple who asked him to marry them at the holy site after examining the halacha and consulting with other adjudicators.
The institute said the wedding ceremony on the Temple Mount is a great achievement "in light of the Waqf and the police's anti-Jewish discrimination, which rejects any Jewish expression at the holy site."
According to the institute, the couple met with the rabbi several days ago in Jerusalem's Old City, where the blessing over the wine was made.
The institute claims the bride and groom, the rabbi and witnesses met at the entrance to the Temple Mount compound.
While walking along the Temple Mount's eastern perimeter and making sure neither the police nor the Waqf's men noticed what they were doing, the groom recited the declaration: "Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel" and put a ring on his bride's finger while the witnesses looked on.
The institute claims that moment was documented, but the couple has asked that the video is not released in full. Instead, the institute posted photos of the married couple's ringed-fingers without exposing their identity.
"The ancient custom of brides and grooms arriving at the Temple Mount separately on their wedding day has been upheld in recent years, but an actual wedding on the Temple Mount is a unique event in history, since the Temple's destruction 2,000 years ago," the institute said.
A man who was involved in the planning of the secret ceremony claimed it happened last week. "A group of 13 Jews went on the Temple Mount. One of them caused a diversion to make the police and the Waqf look towards the Dome of the Rock. Then, while another person was hiding the couple, the vows were made."
He said all those involved were asked to keep the ceremony a secret.
The Headquarters of Temple Organizations said they "congratulate the new couple for their marriage on the holy mountain. There's no place like that place to start a life of holiness. However, it is very regretful that such an act has become rare due to the authorities' illegal policy of discrimination on the Temple Mount, which forbids any Jewish expression at the site."
This is an unusual event in the volatile area, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, where Jews are not allowed to pray.
The status quo on the Temple Mount upholds a rule that has effectively existed since 1187, when Muslim warrior Saladin defeated the Christian crusaders and held on to Jerusalem: non-Muslims may enter the sacred compound, but only Muslims can pray.
Before Muslims built the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque in the late 7th and early 8th centuries, two Jewish temples, the second destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, stood at the site, which is both the holiest place in Islam outside Saudi Arabia and the most sacred place in Judaism.
After Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem in the 1967Six-Day War, it agreed to continue the status quo, recognizing the risks of igniting a religious war if anything were changed. It gave Jordan special responsibility for overseeing the Muslim holy sites via the Waqf, an Islamic trust.
That agreement was reinforced when Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. There have been many periods of friction over the years, but to all intents and purposes, the status quo has held.
Over the last decade or so, since then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the site in 2000, the Waqf says Israel has been slowly chipping away at the rules, with increasing numbers of religious Jews visiting the area and many of them surreptitiously praying.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected those suggestions, saying repeatedly that the government has not changed the rules and has no intention of doing so.
Meanwhile, every week, police detains and at times also arrests right-wing activists on suspicion of praying or violating the rules in another manner.
Reuters contributed to this report.