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Destruction at the Temple Mount Continues (2001)

The Temple Mount, in  the heart of the old city of Jerusalem, is the holiest site in Israel and perhaps in the whole world. Traditions place here the creation of the world, Adam’s burial, and the story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.

Historically this is the mountain where Solomon built the Biblical Temple, and here is where Jesus preached in the 1st century CE.

After the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 CE, the mountain was left in ruins for nearly six centuries. In the 7th century CE the Muslims identified the Temple Mountas the place from where Muhammad ascended to heaven to receive the daily prayers of Islam, and in memory of the event the Umayyad khalif ‘Abd el-Malek built the magnificent “Dome of the Rock” monument in its centre. Except for a short Crusader interval the Muslims have ruled the Temple Mount ever since.

When Israel became sovereign of the whole city in June 1967, many cried for the recreation of the Temple, but the chief of staff, Moshe Dayan, and the Israeli parliament, made an historical decision of not changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. This decision is kept strictly by the state of Israel to this day and no synagogue, needless to say temple, is built on the temple mount. Even the flag of Israel is not seen there. The Muslim religious trust in charge of the Temple Mount (the Waqf) also kept its promise for nearly 30 years, but no more, of not changing the staus quo, but no more.

A large scale construction project began about two years ago on the Temple mount. At first, the work was “to create an emergency exit” from the area known as Solomon’s Stables but the tons of earth removed by tractors and thrown in the Kidron valley are clear testimony that the work is of a much larger scale. This construction work is potentially destroying rare in situ evidence of the mountain’s past. Such work should be done by archeological methods, not tractors. Browsing thorough the debris dumped in the Kidron Valley, archaeologists found many pottery shards, and even a lintel of an ancient public entrance that could be from the temple building in Jesus days. (See my report in Archaeological Diggings 2000-5).

Protests by various archaeologists invoked international media cover and the work was postponed for a while, but recently work has resumed. A few days ago trucks with more debris form the Temple Mount were recorded leaving the construction area. The Waqf does not let any one get near the construction area and so no documentation is done, but clearly the potential destruction continues.

Personally angry and hurt by this, I wish to report and protest against this. This is not a political issue or an “Israeli-Arab” issue. I am not interested in dismantling the Dome of the Rock or in the creation of Jewish temple. I am concerned only in the antiquities. If the Waqf wants to renovate anything on the Temple Mount, it should let archaeologists document any antiquities found. If the Waqf does not wish for Israeli archaeologists to be involved, then let a foreign, or and Arab archaeologist document the site, but documentation must be done!.

Zahi Zwieg is a colleague of mine who was brave enough to take some pictures of the work done on the Temple Mount and was nearly arrested for his efforts. These pictures that you see were taken by him recently. He also created a web site: www.har-habayt.org, which devoted to stop the destruction at the Temple Mount.

If you too care, please add your name to the list there. The list is meant to show that the concern for the Temple Mount antiquities is international.

Jerusalem emergency exit

areal view of jerusalem

Ancient columns