JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has quietly granted the Waqf – the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount – permission to dig unsupervised on the sacred site, WND has learned.
The permission was granted in spite of longstanding fears from leading Israeli archeologists the Waqf might hide or dispose of Jewish Temple artifacts discovered during any Muslim digs.
The last time the Waqf conducted an unsupervised excavation on the Temple Mount, in 1997, the Muslim custodians ultimately were caught by Israeli authorities disposing truckloads of Mount dirt that contained Jewish Temple artifacts.
Most Palestinian leaders routinely deny well-documented Jewish ties to the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism.
According to Palestinian sources, the Waqf last month requested permission from Israel to conduct what it said were needed excavations under the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount to install new electrical and telephone infrastructures in the mosque. Olmert’s office at first turned down the Waqf request, but after petitioning by the Jordanian government, the prime minister acquiesced and has allowed the dig.
The Waqf this week quietly began digging a massive tunnel that snakes from the Al Aqsa Mosque to the nearby Dome of the Rock, bringing in heavy equipment for the work.
According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, the dig is not being supervised by any Jewish archeologist, including from the Israeli government’s Antiquities Authority, which boasts a board of leading Israeli Temple Mount archeological authorities.
Prominent Temple Mount archeologist Eilat Mazar, a professor of Hebrew University and a member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount, slammed the Waqf dig.
Mazar said she was concerned the Muslims were excavating “without real, professional and careful archaeological supervision involving meticulous documentation.”
Mazar, a third-generation Israeli Temple Mount archaeologist, is the discoverer and lead archaeologist of Israel’s City of David, believed to be the palace of the biblical King David, the second leader of a united Kingdom of Israel, who ruled from around 1005 to 965 B.C.
The last time the Waqf conducted a large dig on the Temple Mount, during construction 10 years ago of a massive mosque at an area referred to as Solomon’s Stables, the Wafq reportedly disposed truckloads of dirt containing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.
After the media reported on the disposals, Israeli authorities froze the construction permit given to the Wafq, and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archeologists for analysis. The Israeli authorities found scores of Jewish Temple relics in the nearly disposed dirt, including coins with Hebrew writing referencing the Temple, part of a Hasmonean lamp, several other Second Temple lamps, Temple period pottery with Jewish markings, a marble pillar shaft and other Temple period artifacts. The Waqf was widely accused of attempting to hide evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples.
Temples ‘never existed’
Speaking to WND in a recent interview, Waqf official and chief Palestinian Justice Taysir Tamimi claimed the Jewish Temples “never existed.”
“About these so-called two Temples, they never existed, certainly not at the Haram Al- Sharif (Temple Mount),” said Tamimi, who is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
“Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880s,” said Tamimi.
The Palestinian cleric denied the validity of dozens of digs verified by experts worldwide revealing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temples, tunnels that snake under the Temple Mount and over 100 ritual immersion pools believed to have been used by Jewish priests to cleanse themselves before services. The cleansing process is detailed in the Torah.
Asked about the Western Wall, Tamimi said the structure was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse and that it is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, even though the Wall predates the mosque by more than 1,000 years.
“The Western wall is the western wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque. It’s where Prophet Muhammad tied his animal which took him from Mecca to Jerusalem to receive the revelations of Allah.”
The Palestinian media also regularly state the Jewish Temples never existed.
‘We are fed up with this crap nonsense’
In a series of WND exclusive interviews, Palestinian terror leaders denied the existence of the Jewish Temples.
“We are fed up with this crap nonsense of the Temple Mount,” said Nasser Abu Aziz, the deputy commander of Fata’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank.
“We do not know where this story came from. There is no historical or archeological proof that your legendary Temples existed. We are sick of this story. But Allah warned us that Jews will look for an excuse in order to corrupt life on earth, so we are not surprised from the fact that you keep raising this issue.”
Muhammad Abdul-El, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees terror organization, said the Jewish Temples “existed only in your dreams.
“Go look for your stupid Temple elsewhere. And I am not saying this for political reasons. I say that the enemy invented this story in order to justify its occupation of Jerusalem.”
Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ so-called military wing, accused all Jews of being pathological liars.
“Stop lying and believing your own lies. Even if there was such a thing (as a Jewish Temple) do you really believe that Solomon, who was a prophet, would have built a Temple in the place that Allah wanted for the Al Aqsa Mosque?”
Judaism’s holiest site
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Muslims say it is their third holiest site.
The First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.
The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Al Aqsa Mosque now sits on the site.
The temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.
The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.
The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.
Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Mohammed took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.
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