Israelis got a rare glimpse of the planned renovations on the Temple Mount,
Judaism’s holiest site, in a Jordanian report given to the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The report was
issued ahead of a UNESCO conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, which starts on
UNESCO characterizes Jerusalem as a separate entity administered
by both Israel and Jordan. The Wakf Muslim religious trust, a body under the
auspices of the Jordanian government, retains administrative control over the
city’s Muslim holy sites while Israel runs everything else.
Temple Mount is administered by the wakf, it is difficult to discern exactly
what work is being conducted. Both Jordan and Israel submitted plans and ongoing
work in the Old City ahead of the St. Petersburg conference.
Jordanian authorities, workers are restoring the plastering and mosaics inside
the Dome of the Rock, laying lead sheet over the roof of the Al-Aqsa Mosque
complex, renovating the Al-Marwani mosque, and renovating the Khanatanyah School
and library below the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The report also mentioned the
creation of the Center for the Restoration of Islamic Manuscripts of the Haram
al-Sharif, which was funded with $1.2 million from Norway. Saudi Arabia provided
$1.3m. in funding for the “safeguarding, refurbishment and revitalization” of
the Islamic Museum of Haram al-Sharif and its Collection.
is Arabic for Noble Sanctuary, which is how Muslims refer to the Temple
The UNESCO report also examined Israeli proposals for the Old
City, including renovation work on many of its gates, construction planned for
the Western Wall Plaza and an underground parking garage in the Jewish Quarter.
The report slammed Israel for skipping a meeting with Jordanians on April 18 at
UNESCO headquarters in Paris to discuss a future plan for the Mugrabi Bridge,
which leads from the Western Wall Plaza up to the Temple Mount. According to the
report, Jordan sent three experts associated with the Wakf while Israel refused
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel was
unaware that any meeting had taken place and blamed Jordan for reneging on a
memorandum of understanding at the last moment in October 2011 after an Israeli
representative traveled to Amman.
“We’re talking to them, we’re going to
deal with this in coordination with UNESCO. This was our position from the
beginning,” Palmor said. “It’s the Jordanians who don’t want to work with us.
Everything we’ve done was in full transparency and in full coordination with
Repeated phone calls to the Wakf in Jerusalem went
The UNESCO report also expressed apprehension about the
reconstruction of the Tiferet Israel synagogue, located near the Western Wall,
which it claimed could rekindle wide-spread rioting ignited by the rededication
of the Hurva Synagogue in March 2010. Stoked by incitement that the Hurva
rededication was an attempt to destroy the Dome of the Rock, Palestinians called
for a “day of rage” and rioted across east Jerusalem. Sixty people were
arrested. More than 100 protesters were injured, as were 15
Elad Kandl, a former director of projects in the Old City at
the Jerusalem Development Authority, said he was unaware of any plans to
renovate the Tiferet Israel synagogue, which was built between 1882-1892 and
destroyed by the Arab Legion in 1948.
Palmor said that he, too, was
unfamiliar with the plan and that UNESCO should not cite riots as a reason to
stop construction or conservation of important historical sites.
because extremists threaten violence every time something displeases them
doesn’t mean UNESCO or anyone else should align themselves with this,” he
“Extremists should not be allowed veto rights on reconstruction in
From June 24 to July 6, UNESCO is holding the 36th session of
the Convention Concerning Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
to discuss heritage sites that are considered “in danger.”
The Old City
of Jerusalem and its Walls, which includes the Temple Mount and the area around
the Old City, has been on the organization’s list of World Heritage Sites that
are in danger since 1982, just a year after it was inaugurated as a World
In multiple reports over the past three decades, UNESCO
has highlighted a lack of planning, government and management, as well as
archaeological excavations that are at risk of destroying the “outstanding
universal value” of the area.
There are 788 UNESCO World Heritage Sites,
35 of which are on the danger list.