Judaism’s holiest site? You wouldn’t think so…

by Maskil on April 8, 2008

According to this article on The Canadian Jewish News website:

Yuval Baruch…made archeological history in October 2007 when he uncovered pottery artifacts on the site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. They are considered to be the first physical evidence of human activity during the time of King Solomon’s Temple (the First Jewish Temple).

Baruch, who is Jerusalem’s district archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority…

The Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, is where Jews believe Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac at God’s behest. It is now covered by Islam’s Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“I was not supposed to be left there alone, as the Waqf always has someone present when Israeli archeologists are on the site. It was in the evening after 8 p.m., and by chance the Arab electrical workers left me and a member of my staff for about 15 minutes while they went to pray. When I was alone in that brief time, I found the pottery shards among dust near the bedrock level,” he says.

The tunnel to which Baruch got access, was a sealed archeological level – “about 400 metres long,” he says – that was exposed during the inspection in the area close to the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.

At one time – not that many decades ago – discoveries of this nature would have caused widespread excitement in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, as well as amongst Bible Christians and those with an interest in the history and archaeology of the Holy Land. Sadly, this no longer appears to be the case; reports such as this seemingly attract little attention or interest.

It also struck me how shocking it is that Baruch (“Jerusalem’s district archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority”) was only able to make the discoveries after accidentally being left alone on the site for a quarter of an hour. In a sane world, the IAA would be allowing someone from the Waqf to accompany IAA field staff doing what they are supposed to do.

It is also a sad reflection on current realities that the IAA is powerless (or is rendered powerless by politicians) to prevent the industrial-scale vandalism and destruction still taking place on the Temple Mount. I dealt with this strategy of denial in a bit more depth in my posting “Completing the work of the Romans: the WAQF and the Temple Mount”.

Some of the unintended consequences of the failure to limit the authority and activities of the Waqf on the Temple Mount include:

  • A massive loss of credibility and trust for the Israel Antiquities Authority. This once highly regarded and a-political body is now seen as having failed to protect Israel’s archaeological heritage where it matters most, and as just another tool of the government of the day.
  • It is seen as part of a pattern of the steady erosion of Israeli sovereignty on all fronts. I am not the first to point out that if that erosion continues to take place, it will quickly start to constitute another unnecessary existential threat for Israel. Israel’s sovereignty needs to be extended over every inhabitant and every square inch of its territory. (This includes administered, annexed, disputed or occupied territories, until such time as they are no longer within Israel’s security envelope.)
  • Allowing Jewish history and heritage to be trampled upon in this manner will inevitably be laid at the door of centre/left end of the political spectrum. In reality, however, much of the damage was actually done on Ariel Sharon’s watch. Rather than becoming a political football, however, this needs to be addressed as a national and a Jewish concern, not just a concern of the political and religious right.

Nothing will change or improve under the present government[*]. At some stage in the near future, however, we need to get to grips with what needs to be done to protect the heritage and status of “Judaism’s holiest site”.

The Canadian Jewish News – Archeologist finds artifacts from time of Solomon’s Temple

150 Israeli Citizens File Landmark Criminal Prosecution Of The Waqf Over Temple Mount Destruction

Completing the work of the Romans: the WAQF and the Temple Mount

[*] According to the latest Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center update (Mon 2008/04/07), Israeli Attorney General Moves To Block Shurat Hadin’s Prosecution Of Islamic Waqf :

According to the law, the Attorney General’s office had 15 days after the private indictment was filed to decide whether it would like to adopt the prosecution on its own or allow the citizen prosecutors to proceed independently. Recently, after weeks of delays, the Attorney General Mazuz decided to choose none of the above and announced in his letter that he will ask that the entire case be stricken. The government lawyers are arguing that it is in the public’s interest not to bring the WAQF official to court! Mazuz claims, that the private indictment is not the proper proceeding in this instance, but refuses to take the prosecution upon himself.

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