February 26: Fact vs fiction

The ramp leading to the Mughrabi Gate was in existence over 140 years ago, and the gate was outside the walls of the Temple Mount.

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
Fact vs fiction Sir, - "UNESCO to assess Mughrabi work" (February 25) is most welcome, and it is a shame the world's media did not ascertain that the excavations are not taking place on the Temple Mount or adjacent to the Aksa Mosque by referring to the historic Ordnance Survey Maps of Jerusalem 1864-65 by Captain Charles W. Wilson R.E. They would have found not only that the ramp leading to the Mughrabi Gate was in existence over 140 years ago, but that the gate was in the house of Abu Seud outside the walls of the Temple Mount. Furthermore, an enormous lintel was discovered below the gate, covering a closed doorway measuring 20ft x 6ft 10ins and almost 29 ft. in height, at a distance of 275 ft. from the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, but obscured by the ramp. This gate, known as Barclay's Gate, found by James Turner Barclay in the mid-19th century and most likely to be the Kiphonos Gate, one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, is mentioned in the Mishna (Middot 1:3). Regrettably, government spokesmen and the Israel Antiquities Authority fail to publicize this. A fact never alluded to is that beyond the gate is the underground mosque of Al-Burak, described by Wilson in detail, at a distance of 23 ft. below the level of the Temple Mount and accessed by a flight of stairs from the eastern cloisters. Within the mosque is shown the ring to which "Mahomet fastened his steed Al Burak during his famous night journey" - dispelling all claims that the steed was tethered to the Western Wall, or to any supporting wall of the Temple Mount. COLIN L LECI Jerusalem Faint praise Sir, - "UN opens anti-racism probe with rare praise for Israel" (February 23), splashed over the width of your page, may have made many readers happy for a moment - Ah, at last a friendly word for us from the UN! But anyone bothering to read beyond the headline would have been disappointed. There was little evidence of praise for Israel, apart from the terse remark that Israel had presented a "detailed report... on issues relating to racism and discrimination." ZEEV RAPHAEL Haifa Food for nought Sir, - Re "Blind aid" (Editorial, February 25): Of course the Palestinians are starving. They are biting the hand that feeds them. HELA CROWN-TAMIR Mevaseret Zion Not much of a case Sir, - I have followed Naomi Ragen's writing career since early 1972, when we were neighbors. She is a talented writer with a gift for vivid, detailed descriptions, creating realistic characters and weaving plots around historical events. Every one of her novels, and her play, were inspired either by news items, personal accounts confided to her, historical events or autobiography. She traveled to Spain as part of her research for The Ghost of Hannah Mendes. As a professional writer and editor for over 35 years I can state that every creative writer's work is influenced by a "mix" of the people they meet, the places they visit, the stories they hear, the works they read, the films they view and the experiences they undergo. Obviously both Michal Tal's The Lion and the Cross and Ms. Ragen's book were influenced by the Spanish Inquisition and the life of the 16th-century persona of Donna Gracia. It therefore stands to reason that they would use similar, if not identical names. Connecting past and present through the use of dreams and flashbacks is a common literary technique used to give historical tales modern relevance. I have not read the details of Ms. Tal's lawsuit against Ms. Ragen. Nevertheless if it is based primarily on the examples listed in "Naomi Ragen denies plagiarism" (February 23), her case is weak. GEORGE M. STANISLAWSKI Jerusalem Conversion pains Sir, - There would seem to be rabbis in our midst who, misguidedly and against Halacha, feel dutybound not to welcome the converts in our midst and thus enable them to fully realize their Jewish identity and aspirations. "When becoming a Jew depends on knowing the right bureaucrat" (February 23) reported the disgraceful situation of a South African woman who, having studied here for conversion, was given a hard time in finalizing her situation due to a single rabbi's whim and was thankfully rescued by another, more caring one. This report highlighted the terrible misery caused to would-be converts and hidden Jews (anusim), day after day, here in Israel. Casa Shalom has turned to the Supreme Court in an effort to achieve rulings that are fair and honest, and no longer the prerogative of individuals. GLORIA MOUND Casa Shalom, Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies Gan Yavne Sir, - In Yavne and with some haredim I found continued happiness in learning Judaism like I was used to. But the process of converting in this country made me sad. I lost more than my own money. There is room to agree with Rabbi Dayan that converts should live in the country of conversion for at least a year. But the most frustrating bureaucratic thing for me here was that the Beit Din didn't give me papers to ask for a new visa when my file was already opened. Four times I was illegal for three months, without health insurance; and one time I had a serious problem with my leg. After 10 months in Yavne, plus three months volunteering in the army, I hoped to go to a haredi Sephardi yeshiva, till I noticed the danger of the state not recognizing that conversion, and I might have waited for years on citizenship. So I went to a Zionist yeshiva. After 28 months I came to the Special Case Committee, and it took another eight months till I was a full-fledged citizen. I got paperwork where the state, Beit Din and yeshiva blamed each other, but I'm not expecting a clear answer anymore. Now I'm happy and thankful for being Israeli - I just hope they answer other human beings better. ABSHALOM HOYER Jerusalem This bus business Sir, - Re "Haredi women don't want mixed seating" (Letters, February 25): I find it fascinating that your correspondent from London seems to know exactly what the haredi women of Jerusalem want, or don't want. If he has done some serious social research on haredim in Jerusalem, then it behooves him to publish it for all to read and learn from. His analogies simply don't make sense. Jerusalem's public buses are just that - public buses. They are neither houses of religious worship nor places that demand privacy, like restrooms. If haredim want to enjoy a higher degree of separation between the sexes on public transportation they should organize their own private bus lines. They have no right to force their sensibilities on the larger public. ABBI ADEST Jerusalem Sir, - In 1994 your Postscripts column ran a suggestion from me: Double-decker buses could serve routes in haredi areas. Women could sit on the lower level, not - chas v'shalom! - because they are inferior, but because they are more down-to-earth. Not to mention that they are often accompanied by children, prams and shopping bags. The gentlemen would likely feel more at home on the higher level, closer to God. Who knows? Thirteen years from now, in 2020, the Messiah may have arrived to straighten out all problems, including this one. ABRAHAM JAN MENSES Jerusalem