Illegal activity on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Ed.  Imagine visiting a former home, the place your ancestors lived for hundreds of years.  There is a cemetery there, now owned by THEM, the people who drove your ancestors out.  You walk around finding  gravestones with your family’s name.  The gravestones are hard to find because a construction crew is building a new church , one for THEM.  A worker, one of THEM, comes by and demands to see your passport.

He is armed and hostile.  ….  whatever you do, if you want to pray, do so silently.

Harvey Cohen : During a visit to the Temple Mount, in the Old City of Jerusalem, on Monday, February 22, 2010, I took the attached three photographs (click to expand), the significance of which is as follows:



IMG_8178.JPGIn 1999, at the southeast corner of the Temple Mount itself, in order to cut a new large stairway entrance leading downstairs into Solomon’s Stable (where Crusaders were said to have stabled their horses), for easier access to one of the largest indoor mosques in the world, the Waqf (the Islamic Trust that supervises the Temple Mount) ordered the illegal removal and dumping of 9000 cubic meters of earth and rubble from the Temple Mount, without any supervision of the work, let alone examination of the earth and rubble by an archeologist from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, as is required by Israeli law.

Worse still, most of the big column parts and easily identifiable architectural artifacts (identifiable as Jewish or Christian archeologically) were either removed or smashed/destroyed before being mixed with modern construction debris (including asbestos) and garbage and then dumped into the Kidron Valley in East Jerusalem., in order to obscure any past Jewish and/or Christian connection to the Temple Mount. The earth/rubble (grey colored from two burnt Temples) was dumped in a number of clearly identified locations in the Kidron Valley, east of the Temple Mount, and west of the Mount of Olives.

At the time, an archeology graduate student, Zachi Zweig, was arrested multiple times trying to stop the trucks from leaving the Temple Mount with the earth and rubble. He, along with Professor Gabriel Barkai eventually obtained non-governmental funding and official governmental licensing in 2004 to remove the earth/rubble from the Kidron Valley in order to start the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Emek Tzurim National Park, Wadi al Joz, East Jerusalem. They both have been supervising the sifting project ever since.

In 2001, the world was outraged by the actions of the Taliban at Bamyan, Afghanistan, when they made many attempts, eventually successfully, to destroy the massive ancient Buddhist carvings on the side of a mountain, first by artillery fire, and finally by explosive charges set into the mountain. The world was outraged about the destruction of a religious site that had not been actively used as a Buddhist religious site for over 1000 years, yet the world has basically ignored a similar destruction in 1999 (and again in 2007, and even ongoing today) of major Jewish and Christian archeological artifacts in the most important Jewish and Christian religious site in the world, namely, the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.

Here is a page in Hebrew, sent to me from Jerusalem, that describes recent illegal activities on the Temple Mount by Arab workers for the Waqf, the Islamic Trust in charge. (Try or Google|en| to get the gist of the page with a really rough on-line translation.) One of the embedded pictures is of a Bobcat moving earth/rubble, that is under court order not to be moved/dumped/or even spread around the Temple Mount since it was illegally excavated in 2007, when a slit trench was cut along the raised platform of the Temple Mount (for insertion of new electrical lines for the Dome of the Rock). The other picture is of a flat-bed truck (carrying new paving stones). Such trucks were also barred from the Temple Mount, as per the court order.

Image # 8178 is another view of the same very large pile of excavated earth/rubble that is mixed with garbage on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, easily visible from the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque, despite the fact that the Temple Mount complex is the third holiest site in the Moslem world.

The picture of the Bobcat was taken at another side of the very large pile of earth and rubble illegally excavated in 2007, which is under court order not to be removed, unless/until an archeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority thoroughly examines it. Since the court order prevents its being thrown away, attempts are being made to spread it around and cover it up with new paving stones. The picture of the flat-bed truck (loaded with paving stones) was taken when the truck was being driven past the Al Aksa Mosque, at the southern end of the Temple Mount, and the license-plate number is easily readable. The police denied that the truck was even there on the Temple Mount at all that day.

Immediately before I took the picture of the Bobcat, my friend picked up pieces of a smashed black bitumen limestone opus sectile floor stone at the edge of the earth/rubble pile. An Arab worker asked us what we were doing, and we answered that we were just looking around the beautiful site. As we walked on, I grabbed a single shot of the Bobcat. After about another 25 feet further on, while we were looking at a sketch of the Temple Mount copied from and archeology book, a different Arab worker told us very abruptly that we were not allowed to have any open books, etc. on the Temple Mount, and that we needed to put it away and move along. They are afraid that we might daven up there, and it does not matter if we are Jews or Christians, we are all infidels to them. If I were dressed like a frum Jew, black and white with tzitzes showing, we would have been escorted on our walk by an Israeli policeman (either Jewish or Arab). In fact, my friend from the sifting project was wearing a long skirt with her hair covered with a kerchief, and her attire caused us a delay at security while her Israeli ID was checked before the two of us were allowed onto the Temple Mount itself; they have a list of troublemakers who are barred from entering.

Zachi Zweig (who was barred from entering for years, until recently) wanted to know if I had taken a picture of the Bobcat lifting a shovel full off the pile. I was limited to that one picture with Arab workers interrupting us both before and after the picture. I went onto the Temple Mount again a week later by myself, just to look around once more before we left Israel that night, but this time I decided to recite the Shemah silently while walking around.

The purpose of this post is to urge you to stay informed about the ongoing illegal activities on the Temple Mount, by getting on the mailing lists of the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount (in English) and of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

For those of you who are able to travel to Jerusalem, please consider joining me and the 60,000 other volunteers world-wide since 2004 (young and old, Jewish and Christian) to help sift the earth and rubble excavated in 1999, as a small part of your visit to Israel (only 20% of the 9000 cubic meters excavated has been examined so far). This is the most user-friendly archeological site in the world, regardless of your physical condition.

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