An interior wall has collapsed at a hotly contested Jerusalem holy site, setting off fears of religious violence between Muslims and Jews.
The Islamic Waqf, which administers the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shrines atop the Temple Mount, accused Israeli authorities of instigating the failure of the wall by preventing engineers from maintaining it.
The collapsed wall is situated near the Islamic Museum.
Diagram of Temple Mount area.
Adnan al-Husseini of the Waqf said the failure was the result of “the Israeli intervention in our work and preventing us from maintaining it after we stated it was in urgent need for a rapid action to prevent its collapse,” according to multiple news reports from Israel.
“It looks terrible,” said Eliat Mazar, an Israeli archaeologist and Temple Mount expert and a leader of the committee for preventing the destruction of antiquities at the site. “This collapse might cause a terrific series of collapses.”
She charged the Waqf with directing “unsupervised” work in and around the Temple Mount resulting in the loss of archaeological treasures.
Section of wall before collapse (photo: IsraelNationalNews.com)
Last December, WorldNetDaily reported a huge bulge had developed in an outer southern wall on the 37-acre Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Israel waited for Jordanian engineers to repair it.
The Temple Mount is the foundation of the Jewish Temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Because it is the only remnant of the foundation, it is considered the holiest site for observant Jews – perhaps the only true holy site. Muslims claim it is the third holiest in their faith because two mosques were constructed on the site hundreds of years later.
Despite the fact the Temple Mount is the only real estate in the world revered by Jews, Israel has turned over day-to-day administration of the area to the Waqf, an Islamic trust with close ties to Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
Section of wall after collapse (photo: IsraelNationalNews.com)
A year-long dispute between Israel and the Waqf over who will fix the bulge was solved in October with a decision to involve the Jordanian engineers, who inspected and took a sampling of the protruding wall.
A report the engineers subsequently issued recommended replacing some of the eroding stones in the 2,000-year-old wall to prevent it from future collapse.
Israeli archeologists believe the bulge and the new wall collapse are due to unauthorized Waqf construction at an underground area known as Solomon’s Stables, located on the other side of the wall. Reports say Muslim authorities are constructing yet another mosque at the Jewish holy site.
Faulty drainage was cited by the Antiquities Authority as the probable cause for the bulge in its report, issued last year.
Prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Jordan was in charge of maintenance at the Temple Mount. In the years since, the PA, seeking to gain a foothold in Jerusalem, ousted both the Jordanian-appointed Waqf director and the Jerusalem mufti – both of whom had for years quietly cooperated with Israel – and replaced them with its own people.
Fearing renewed Palestinian violence, police barred non-Muslims from entering the Temple Mount for nearly two years after Ariel Sharon’s controversial visit in September 2000, leaving the area without any archeological supervision. In recent weeks, non-Muslim tourists have been permitted back with police or military escorts.
Newsweek has called the southern wall “The Armageddon wall,” because the old rocks help support an enormous stone platform that holds the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, among Islam’s most sacred shrines.
Should it collapse, some archeologists fear a doomsday effect – dead worshippers, perhaps in the thousands, riots throughout the Middle East and charges that Israel is responsible.