Temple mount work 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A bulldozer was seen last week ripping up earth on the Temple Mount, at the Dome of the Rock platform. It slashed a long gash, purportedly to lay new electric cables. With crude, damaging handling, it exposed a largely gray deposit, which according to archeologists is a sure-fire indication of "archeologically significant" matter.
Incomprehensibly, despite TV air-time and print space, these revelations by the Archeologists Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount (CPDATM) failed to cause much stir. The public has perhaps grown numb due to official abdication of control on the Mount. But the expedient turning of official blind eyes amounts to abetting the Wakf's ongoing construction at Judaism's most sacred site.
How does heavy earth-moving equipment climb to the Mount's top without anyone knowing? It doesn't. Someone tolerates its presence. In fact, three tractors of different sizes and capabilities are reportedly permanently kept by the Muslim Wakf on the compound. The CPDATM has long demanded their removal, to no avail. These are used, at the whim of the Wakf, to carry out harmful excavations without any archeological supervision.
In one of these tractor's latest escapades, it broke the earth roughly and hollowed out a long trench varying in depth from 50 to 100 centimeters. Signs of ancient architecture were exposed beneath the current platform slabs. The bedrock at this site is no deeper than the dig, hence whatever soil was overturned would have contained whatever artifacts could be found at that maximum depth. This travesty was perpetrated with Israeli policemen stationed nearby. Archeological supervision was nowhere to be detected.
Only videos taken with a hidden camera brought to the fore the destructive work at the site associated with Jewish history's most sensitive relics. The officers on hand, moreover, according to testimony by archeologist Prof. Yisrael Caspi, CPDATM head, forbade him from picking any remains out of the rubble.
Caspi and other archeologists were warned that they had better not even try to bend down, lest they stretch out an arm to touch anything. A policeman was finally dispatched to maintain particular vigilance against Prof. Eilat Mazar, most suspected of a proclivity to lay a hand on a pottery shard. Speaking for the CPDATM, Mazar expressed "the deepest distress at the continued official disregard and disrespect for the incalculable archeological importance of the Temple Mount."
The Israel Antiquities Authority refuses comment. It consistently adopts a hands-off attitude to the Mount, most likely fearing Wakf antagonism. Its representatives refrain from directly supervising any Wakf activities atop the Mount, preferring to shield themselves behind official police reports. Both the police and the Antiquities Authority, moreover, dread provoking Muslim riots, decline to take independent positions and pass the buck to the Prime Minister's Office, which would rather not acknowledge the existence of any problems on the Mount. Claims of Israeli control, if not sovereignty, are hollow in this context.
This, it must be stressed, comes subsequent to unfathomable damage already caused to the Mount over the past decade by the Wakf, most notably when digging up the Solomon's Stables area for new mosque construction. Tons of artifact-laden debris were discarded as refuse.
While Muslims under ostensible Israeli rule are free to physically impinge on the deepest Jewish sensitivities, they raise shrill outcries whenever Israel dares do anything even in the Mount's vicinity, such as the (now halted) construction of a new pedestrian walkway in lieu of the dangerously dilapidated one to the Mughrabi Gate.
Foreign governments acted as if this Muslim outcry were legitimate, even though Israel was acting with complete archeological supervision and international scrutiny, and the claims of structural threat to the Temple Mount or any mosque were obviously spurious. Yet when the same elements who protested then use bulldozers on the Temple Mount itself, with no supervision and causing obvious damage, they are "protected" from Israeli archeologists by Israel's own authorities.
There is no excuse for our government to allow, let alone provide official cover for, the movement of a single stone on the Temple Mount without full archeological supervision. Whether construction should be allowed that substantially alters the status quo there is another matter.