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Islamic Authorities Caught Destroying Temple Artifacts

JERUSALEM – Islamic authorities using heavy machinery to dig on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – have been caught red-handed destroying Temple-era antiquities and what is believed to be a section of an outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple.
 
But Israel is blocking leading archeologists from surveying the alleged massive damage to the Mount or identifying whether a Temple wall was discovered by the Muslims, as is believed. If verified, the wall would possibly be the most significant archeological find related to both Jewish Temples.

“It is unconscionable that the Israeli government is permitting the Wakf to use heavy equipment to chop away at the most important archeological site in the country without supervision,” prominent third-generation Temple Mount archeologist Eilat Mazar said.

“The Israeli government is actively blocking us from inspecting the site and what may be a monumental find and is doing nothing while the Wakf destroys artifacts at Judaism’s holiest site,” charged Mazar, a senior fellow at Israel’s Shalem Center and member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount.

Last month the Wakf – the Muslim custodial body overseeing the Temple Mount – was given permission by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dig a massive trench they say is necessary to replace electrical cables outside mosques on the holy site. The dig, which extends to most of the periphery of the Mount, is being protected by the Israeli police and is supposed to be supervised by the Israeli government’s Antiquities Authority.

Earlier this month, after bulldozers pulverized a trench 1,300 feet long and five feet deep, the Muslim diggers came across a wall Israeli archaeologists believe may be remains of an area of the Second Jewish Temple known as the woman’s courtyard.

The Antiquities Authority has not halted the dig and has not inspected the site. The Wakf has continued using bulldozers to blast away at the trench containing the wall and has steadfastly denied it is destroying any antiquities.

But The Jewish Press has obtained a photograph of the massive Wakf trench. In view in the picture are concrete slabs broken by Wakf bulldozers and a chopped-up carved stone believed to be of Jewish Temple-era antiquity.

Mazar analyzed the photo and said the damaged stone displays elements of the second Temple era and might be part of the Jewish Temple wall that Israeli archeologists charge the Wakf has been attempting to destroy. She said in order to certify the stone in the photo, she would need to personally inspect it.

“The Antiquities Authority tells us to coordinate with the police. The police send us back to the Antiquities Authority,” said Mazar.

The Antiquities Authority did not return repeated requests for comment.

“It’s crucial this wall be inspected. The Temple Mount ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform, meaning anything found is likely from the Temple itself,” the archaeologist said.

Mazar and other top archaeologists last week ascended the Mount to hold a news conference and inspect the site without government permission, but they were blocked from the trench by the Israeli police.

Rabbi Chaim Rechman, director of the international department at Israel’s Temple Institute, was among those on the Mount last week with Mazar. He said he attempted to take pictures of the damage the bulldozers are allegedly wreaking on the wall, but his digital camera was confiscated by Israeli police at the direction of Wakf officials.

“If Israel were building a shopping mall and they found what may be an ancient Buddhist structure, the government would stop the construction and have archaeologists go over the area with a fine tooth comb.

“Here, the holiest site in Judaism is being damaged, a Temple wall was found, and Israel is actively blocking experts from inspecting the site while allowing the destruction to continue,” Rechman said.

Rechman charged that the Wakf was “trying to erase Jewish vestiges from the Temple Mount.”

The last time the Wakf conducted a large dig on the Temple Mount – during construction 10 years ago of a massive mosque at an area referred to as Solomon’s Stables – the Muslim authority reportedly disposed of truckloads of dirt containing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods.

After the media reported on the disposals, Israeli authorities froze the construction permit given to the Wakf, and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archeologists for analysis. Israeli authorities found scores of Jewish Temple relics in the nearly disposed dirt, including coins with Hebrew writing referencing the Temple, part of a Hasmonean lamp, several other Second Temple lamps, Temple period pottery with Jewish markings, a marble pillar shaft and other Temple period artifacts. The Wakf was widely accused of attempting to hide such evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism; Muslims say it is their third holiest site.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E. and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. The Second Temple was built in 515 B.C.E. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 C.E.

The Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s presence dwelt.

The Dome of the Rock now sits on the site and the Al Aksa Mosque is adjacent to it.

The Temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The Al Aksa Mosque was constructed around 709 C.E. to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aksa was meant to mark where Muslims came to believe Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran. Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became associated with Jerusalem.

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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