While the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is collapsing, Israel is waiting for Jordanian engineers to repair it.

A group of Jordanian engineers is due to arrive in Jerusalem next week to repair a large bulge in the 37-acre Temple Mount’s southern wall, the Jerusalem Post reports today. 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.

What was a minor bulge two years ago on the south wall has widened to more than 100 feet and protrudes more than 3 feet. Meanwhile, a new bulge developed on the west wall to the right of the Wailing Wall. Dark moisture stains suggest that water seeping from a garden above is creating pressure on the wall, according to the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

The team of four engineers is currently choosing the proper material to fill the voids and cracks in the wall and will start its work “within a week,” said Dr. Raef Najim, vice president of the state-run Jordanian Construction Committee, according to the Post.

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.

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, says the Post.

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.

The majority of the work to be done by the engineers – who have consulted with various European firms to determine the best new binding materials and chemical additives – will not take more than 10 days.
The decision to let the Jordanians do to the work, which was made at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, follows repeated warnings by top Israeli archeologists that sections of the southern wall are in danger of collapse.

The Jordanian report found there is no immediate danger of collapse. The report cites water dripping into the wall over years as a possible cause of the bulge, Najim said in October. He noted that the penetration of rainwater into the interior of the wall and the changes of temperature created certain voids in the wall, according to the Post.

Israeli archeologists believe the bulge is 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.

The government has said it is in the country’s best interest to involve the Jordanians in the work.

Fearing renewed Palestinian violence, police have barred non-Muslims from entering the Temple Mount since Sharon’s controversial visit in September 2000, leaving the area without any archeological supervision. The 26 months since then is the longest period Judaism’s holiest site has been closed to Jews and Christians since the unification of Jerusalem in 1967.

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.

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