Terrorism on the Temple Mount

Destroying Jewish history with a backhoe (2007).

Destroying Jewish history with a backhoe (2007).

Jeffrey Goldberg writes about the three terrorist attacks he worries about the most, and one of them is an attack by Jews on the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount:

There are still Jewish extremists roaming the Old City of Jerusalem, and some West Bank Jewish settlements are still home to men who believe they could hasten the coming of the messiah by igniting a cataclysmic war with Islam. I’ve met these men — rabbis among them — and they believe that God would save Israel if the Muslim world rose up in anger at the destruction of what one rabbi called “the abomination.”

They are right about one thing: The Muslim world would ignite if the Dome were attacked.

Ironies abound. Can I be excused for saying that the Muslim world is remarkably inflammable? Even a cartoon or two can light it up. If the IDF were to disappear tomorrow, don’t you think Hamas and Hizballah would ‘spontaneously combust?’

Goldberg correctly notes that Israeli authorities take the threat of Jewish extremism very seriously. Would that the Lebanese, Palestinian or Egyptian ones took a similar attitude to Muslim extremism! Instead, the Palestinian Authority pays stipends to the families of ‘martyrs’ and convicted terrorists.

But there is even a greater irony, which is that the Muslim waqf, to which Moshe Dayan foolishly ceded control of the Temple Mount in 1967, has been perpetrating a form of terrorism against the holiest place in Judaism for years. Here is a snippet from an article by former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, which fortuitously appeared today:

In the year 2000 I paid a clandestine visit to the Temple Mount, to what is called Solomon’s Stables, where I saw beautiful, 2,000-year-old columns. They do not exist anymore because they were destroyed by the Muslims, believing that if they destroyed the remnants of the Temple area, they would destroy Jewish rights there.

Herschel Shanks of the Biblical Archaeology Review has been writing about this for years:

Within the last few days [July 2007], a trench two-feet deep—starting from the northern end of the platform where Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock sits—has begun working its way toward the southern end of the Temple Mount. The work is being done without any regard for the archaeological information or treasures that may lie below. Destruction is particularly great in places where bedrock is no deeper than the trench. Some of the digging is being done with mechanical equipment, instead of by hand as a professional archaeological excavation would be conducted…

The Waqf is not acting illegally. According to one report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has quietly granted permission for this destructive dig (otherwise the excavation would be a clear violation of Israeli law). The Israel Antiquities Authority, when queried about the matter, replied: “No comment.” So the dig is proceeding without interference from Israeli authorities. Perhaps their attitude is a product of fear; otherwise, it is inexplicable. Significant remains—pottery, tesserae from ancient mosaics, tiles and even architectural fragments—have already been observed in the soil from the excavated part of the trench.

As they have in the past, Palestinian leaders claim that neither Solomon’s Temple nor Herod’s Temple ever existed on the site. In a recent interview, Palestinian Justice Minister Taysir Tamimi stated: “About these so-called two temples, they never existed, certainly not on the Haram al-Sharif.”

The Waqf has a long history of ignoring Israel’s antiquities laws, and Israel has a long history of ignoring these violations. As early as 1970, the Waqf excavated a pit without supervision that exposed a 16-foot-long, six-foot-thick wall that scholars believe may well be the eastern wall of the Herodian Temple complex. An inspector from the antiquities department saw it and composed a handwritten report (still unpublished) before the wall was dismantled, destroyed and covered up…

In 1999, to accommodate a major expansion of an underground mosque into what is known popularly as Solomon’s Stables in the southeastern part of the Temple Mount, the Waqf dug an enormous stairway down to the mosque. Hundreds of truckloads of archaeologically rich dirt were dug with mechanical equipment and then dumped into the adjacent Kidron Valley. When archaeology student Zachi Zweig began to explore the mounds of dirt for antiquities, he was arrested at the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority—for excavating without a permit.

For over two years Prof. Gabriel Barkay of Bar Ilan University (together with Mr. Zweig) has been engaged in a major sifting operation of this dirt, after he obtained a permit from the Antiquities Authority. Finds have included thousands of artifacts from all periods going back more than 3,000 years. They include a seal impression of a probable brother of someone mentioned in the Bible, Babylonian arrowheads dating to the destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century B.C. (as well as other arrowheads from battles on the Temple Mount), thousands of coins (many dating to the Great Revolt against Rome), beautiful jewelry and even an ancient Egyptian scarab.


Update [1304 PDT]: Victor Shikhman doesn’t like Goldberg’s article either.

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One Response to “Terrorism on the Temple Mount”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    It is correct to say that the initial mistake was Dayan’s in precluding any Jewish religious activity on the Temple Mount. Successive Israeli governments have not known how to deal with the issue. And in fact one of the strangest situations prevails on the ‘Temple Mount’ where Israel has ostensible overall control but where in fact on the ground Jews have no position or rights at all.