Trench dug by Islamic keepers of Temple Mount
JERUSALEM – The Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount today barred WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein from inspecting and filming a massive trench the Islamic authorities have been blasting with bulldozers on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site.
The dig by the Waqf, the Mount’s Muslim custodians, began a month ago and is said to be destroying Temple-era antiquities and what archeologists believe is a wall from the Second Jewish Temple.
The Israeli government has barred archaeologists from inspecting the trench and the Temple-era wall, believed to be from the outer courtyard of the Second Temple. The wall reportedly has been pulverized by the Waqf’s bulldozers.
If verified, the wall would be the most significant Jewish Temple find in history.
Klein and a camera crew from InfoLive.tv today ascended the Mount to obtain footage of the trench, which is said to contain the purported Second Temple wall and other Temple-era artifacts.
Sections of the massive trench were being closed up with dirt today before archeologists were able to inspect the site.
Waqf guards backed up by the Israeli police stopped Klein and InfoLive.tv from approaching open sections of the trench. The guards told Klein he could only film areas of the trench that were closed.
“I would like to see the dig and the bulldozers,” said Klein to a Waqf official during a filmed conversation.
When the Waqf guard directed Klein to the closed areas of the trench, the WND reporter persisted:
“Its already covered up over there. I can’t see it from there. … I want to see the dig.”
One Waqf guard asked WND to shut off the camera. The official can then be heard directing Klein and the crew to immediately vacate the Temple Mount.
Klein and the crew were escorted from the site by the Waqf and an Israeli policeman.
“I wanted to film the site for a report to assess whether any damage was caused during the Waqf digging,” said Klein later.
Last month, the Waqf were given permission by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dig a massive trench they say is necessary to replace electrical cables outside mosques on the holy site. The dig, which extends to most of the periphery of the Mount, is being protected by the Israeli police and is supposed to be supervised by the Israeli government’s Antiquities Authority.
Earlier this month, after bulldozers dug 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 and steadfastly has denied it is destroying any antiquities.
WND last week obtained a photograph of the massive Waqf trench. In view in the picture are concrete slabs broken by Waqf bulldozers and a chopped up carved stone believed to be of Jewish Temple-era antiquity.
Third-generation Temple Mount archaeologist Eilat Mazar analyzed the photo and said the damaged stone displays elements of the second Temple era and might be part of the Jewish Temple wall Israeli archaeologists charge the Waqf has been attempting to destroy. She said in order to certify the stone in the photo, she would need to personally inspect it.
Mazar is also a fellow at Israel’s Shalem Center and member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount. Her much-discussed discovery in the City of David, a neighborhood just south of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, is a massive building that dates to the 10th century B.C. It is believed to be the remains of 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.
Israel, though, is blocking leading archeologists from surveying the massive damage Islamic authorities are accused of causing to what may be the outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.
“The Antiquities Authority tells us to coordinate with the police. The police send us back to the Antiquities Authority,” said Mazar.
The Antiquities Authority did not return repeated requests for comment.
“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 archaeological site in the country without supervision,” Mazar said.
“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 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.”
Muslim custodians have history of destroying Temple artifacts
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 media reported the disposals, Israeli authorities froze the construction permit given to the Wafq, and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archaeologists 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.
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