A demonstration was held last Wednesday (Dec. 26) at the northern entrance to the Temple Mount, in protest of the Waqf’s continued destruction of archeological artifacts on the holy site. The demonstrators, led by MK Aryeh Eldad, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene and to stop the obliteration of these priceless antiques by the Waqf.
The Waqf, a Jordanian Muslim religious body entrusted with the management of the Temple Mount, has been renovating the site for years. In the process, they have been moving mounds of earth off the mountain. These piles contain numerous archaeological artifacts from many centuries. In 2004, the High Court of Justice passed a ruling prohibiting the removal of the dirt from the Temple Mount to other locations until the contents are combed for artifacts.
Archaeologist Yitzchak Dvira has recently published a report about the Waqf’s ongoing disregard of the High Court’s ruling. In his report he states that since the ruling in 2004, large piles of earth have accumulated on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, and the Waqf continues to move earth from the Temple Mount to dump sites in East Jerusalem. Dvira has documented several recent incidents of heavy machinery moving earth away from the Temple Mount. These actions have resulted in the loss of artifacts important to understanding the Jewish, Christian and Muslim history of the site.
Dvira and his crew have sifted through the piles of earth removed from the Mount and have recovered many artifacts belonging to various historical periods. They have recovered seals baring the names of priests mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, support beams from the First Temple, remnants of the structure of the Second Temple, arrow heads and horse-shoe nails from the Crusade period and even artifacts from the Muslim period.
Dvira states that he sees dozens such artifacts every day in the mounds on the side of the Temple Mount. He told Tazpit News Agency that he believes the earth piles should be removed, but it should be done in a supervised fashion, ensuring no further losses. Dvira submitted his report to the police who have released a statement declaring that all construction on the Temple Mount is under their close supervision, and that Dvira’s claims are incorrect. As of now, all other supervisory agencies have not provided a response.
Dvira points out that all issues regarding the Temple Mount are overseen by the Prime Minister’s Office, and he suspects that there is consent on their part to the Waqf’s actions. PM Netanyahu met with King Abdullah of Jordan last week, and Dvira believes they discussed issues related to the Temple Mount project. The Jordanians have been pressuring the Israeli Government to allow the removal of the earth mounds on the side of the Temple Mount.
Dvira and the Temple Mount organizations warn that this continued neglect and disregard of the law will bring to further loss of historic relics. They intend to petition the High Court once more soon.
About the Author: Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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