Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount 390.
(photo credit: Ilan Evyatar)
The Temple Mount is under Israeli law, but authorities must be “extra sensitive” to applying them to the site, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein wrote in a letter to legal advisers dealing with Judaism's holiest site.
Weinstein submitted his letter to the Jerusalem municipality, the Jerusalem police, and the Antiquities Authority a few weeks ago, but the issue came to the forefront on Tuesday due to a petition to the High Court of Justice concerning the Temple Mount which is expected to be heard within the next week.
Filed Sunday, by the Temple Mount Faithful group, the petition claims infrastructure work carried out to strengthen the Dome of the Rock is harming the Foundation Stone, the large stone on which the Ark of the Covenant is believed to have rested.
The group said work carried out by the Wakf Islamic trust is not under the supervision of the Israeli authorities and is damaging the holiest site in Judaism.
Weinstein stressed the Temple Mount must abide by all laws of the Planning and Building Committee and the Antiquities Authority.
He also wrote that any time authorities need to “test the application of law in the Temple Mount complex,” they should be pragmatic and take the area’s unique status into consideration.
Weinstein suggested that any reports on the situation should be sent to the National Security Council and the cabinet secretary.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the police maintain a continuous presence on the Temple Mount to ensure that the Antiquities Authority has full access to the construction work.
“There are some people who want to make noise, claiming that the work is damaging,” he said, “but all of the work being done there are is under supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority without any kind of damage to any antiquities.”
Ben-Ruby added that the Foundation Stone is covered in nylon tarps and the scaffolding has been raised around the area. The authority refused to comment.
Temple Mount Faithful director Gershon Salomon accused Weinstein of “fleeing from the issue” and stressed that even if there is no physical damage the construction is still “desecrating it in the most grotesque way imaginable.”
A response from the State Attorney’s Office to the petition from Sunday stressed that since the Dome of the Rock was built 1,300 years ago, the infrastructure work was essential to strengthen the roof. The High Court is expected to examine the issue in the coming week.