Israelis Celebrate New Year Despite Unrest

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- On the eve of the Jewish New Year -- 5774 on the Hebrew calendar -- Israelis are optimistic despite ongoing threats by Islamists to wipe Israel off the map.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon encouraged the nation to enjoy the Rosh Hashanah holiday, knowing the security establishment is keeping a watchful eye on Syria and Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

"Israeli citizens can be relaxed and celebrate the New Year and the upcoming holidays in peace and tranquility," Ya'alon said.

In his annual Rosh Hashanah address, Netanyahu said the Jewish state remains "an oasis of democracy, stability, tolerance, and liberty."

"Together we can continue to achieve great things for the Jewish people and the world," he said, ending his address with the traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting, "Shana tova u'metuka."

"It means a good year and a sweet New Year," Netanyahu said. "I hope you have both."

Meanwhile, Israel Police entered the Temple Mount Wednesday morning to subdue a prospective riot by masked Arabs pelting Jewish visitors and police with rocks.

Police arrested three Arab rock throwers in the Old City's Muslim Quarter and broke up a riot there before it got out of hand.

While police worked to bring the situation under control, Israeli security forces stopped and turned back dozens of buses transporting Muslims to the Temple Mount to "demonstrate" on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

The Temple Mount, which housed the First and Second Jewish Temples, remains Judaism's holiest site. Still, Jews are not allowed to worship or pray there, not even silently.

Some rioters were inspired by Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, who last week called on Muslims to protect the al-Aksa Mosque bodily from a "dangerous mass invasion" by Jewish visitors.

On Tuesday, a Jerusalem Magistrate's Court charged Salah with incitement, banning him from entering Jerusalem for 180 days. He refused to comply with the ruling and will appear before the court again today.

Salah is an Israeli Arab, born in the northern Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, which borders the so-called Green Line. He was elected mayor of that city three times.

But later an Israeli court convicted him of funding Hamas and having contact with an Iranian agent, for which he served two years in jail.

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