Just two weeks after Israel’s Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi boasted there would be no more construction by Muslims on the spiritually sensitive – as well as archaeologically sensitive – Temple Mount, Jewish activists report new excavation by the Islamic Waqf has exceeded more than two feet, raising new concerns about irreparable damage to Judaism’s holiest site.
According to the Muslim authorities, which oversee the Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount, the new excavation is designed to replace a sewer and water line.
The activists, seeking to prevent additional damage to the holy site by the Islamic authority, were kept at a distance from the excavation by police, not even permitted to obtain details from the tractor operator to file a police complaint against him.
Last month, Hanegbi told the Jerusalem Post plans to reopen the Temple Mount last summer were carried out with the full cooperation of the Islamic Waqf, which maintains the day-to-day maintenance at the site. Hanegbi said the closure of the site to Jewish and other non-Muslims was “a political mistake on the part of the (Ehud) Barak government which simply gave in to Arafat’s dictate.”
Hanegbi also said there was “total supervision” of the site, which, he said, would prevent further archaeological destruction caused by unsupervised and unauthorized Waqf construction, such as the construction of an immense mosque at the Solomon’s Stables six years ago. The stables, an underground architectural support of the mount, is now home to the largest mosque in Israel, which seats 30,000 people.
Hanegbi said officials are not permitting “one stone” up to the mount without police approval, adding that since he assumed his position he has not heard any complaints from the Antiquities Authority over the lack of archaeological supervision at the site.