JERUSALEM – Islamic authorities using heavy machinery to dig on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – have been caught red-handed destroying Temple-era antiquities and what’s believed to be a section of an outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.
WND today obtained a photograph of a massive trench the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount, have been blasting around the periphery of the holy site purportedly to replace 40-year-old electrical cables for mosques on the Mount. The Waqf has steadfastly denied they found or destroyed any Jewish antiquities during their dig.
Possible carved stone from Jewish Temple-era antiquity exposed by digging at Temple Mount in Jerusalem
In view in the picture, which was obtained in conjunction with Israel’s Temple Institute, are concrete slabs broken by Waqf bulldozers and what appears to be a chopped up carved stone from Jewish Temple-era antiquity.
Eilat Mazar, considered one of the most prominent Temple Mount archaeologists, analyzed the photo and told WND the damaged stone displays elements of the second Temple era and might be part of a Jewish Temple wall Israeli archeologists charge the Waqf found and has been attempting to destroy. If authenticated, the wall would be one of the most important Temple Mount archaeological discoveries in recent history.
“It certainly looks like Second Temple antiquity and could very well be part of a Second Temple courtyard wall,” Mazer said.
She said in order to certify the stone in the photo, she would need to personally inspect it.
But Israel is blocking leading archaeologists from surveying massive damage Islamic authorities are accused of causing to what may be the outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.
Last month, the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount, were given permission by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dig a large trench they say is necessary to replace electrical cables. The dig is being protected by the Israeli police and is supposed to be supervised by the Israeli government’s Antiquities Authority.
Archeologists say Islamic custodians of Temple Mount are destroying what could be part of a wall from the Second Jewish Temple (Courtesty TempleInstitute.org)
Earlier this month, after bulldozers pulverized a trench 1,300 feet long and five feet deep, the Muslim diggers came across a wall Israeli archaeologists believe may be remains of an area of the Second Jewish Temple known as the woman’s courtyard.
The Antiquities Authority has not halted the dig and has not inspected the site. The Waqf has continued using bulldozers to blast away at the trench containing the wall.
The Antiquities Authority did not return repeated requests for comment.
Leading Temple Mount archaeologists, including Mazar and Gavriel Barkai, petitioned the Israeli government to immediately halt the dig and allow experts to inspect the emerging wall.
But Mazar and other archaeologists say they are being blocked by the Israeli government.
“The Antiquities Authority tells us to coordinate with the police. The police send us back to the Antiquities Authority,” said Mazar, a senior fellow at Israel’s Shalem Center and member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount.
Mazar also is a discoverer and the lead archaeologist of a dig 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.
“It’s crucial this wall is inspected. The Temple Mount ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform, meaning anything found is likely from the Temple itself,” the archaeologist said.
Fed up, Mazar and other top archaeologists last week ascended the Mount to hold a news conference and inspect the site without government permission, but they were blocked from the trench by the Israeli police.
“It is unconscionable that the Israeli government is permitting the Waqf to use heavy equipment to chop away at the most important archeological site in the country without supervision,” Mazar told WND.
“The Israeli government is actively blocking us from inspecting the site and what may be a monumental find and is doing nothing while the Waqf destroys artifacts at Judaism’s holiest site,” she said.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute, was among those on the Mount last week with Mazar. He told WND he attempted to take pictures of the damage the bulldozers are allegedly wrecking on the wall, but his digital camera was confiscated by Israeli police at the direction of Waqf officials.
“If Israel was building a shopping mall and they found what may be an ancient Buddhist structure, the government would stop the construction and have archaeologists go over the area with a fine tooth comb. Here, the holiest site in Judaism is being damaged, a Temple wall was found, and Israel is actively blocking experts from inspecting the site while allowing the destruction to continue,” Richman said.
Richman charged the Waqf was “trying to erase Jewish vestiges from the Temple Mount.”
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’
Most Palestinian leaders routinely deny well-documented Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.
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.
Judaism’s holiest site
While 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 Dome of the Rock now sits on the site and the Al Aqsa Mosque is adjacent.
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 Muhammad 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.