July 20, 2007

Biblical Destruction by the Muslim Waqf

From Biblical Destruction:

That the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the Temple Mount, should wish to install new electric and telephone lines is understandable - provided that the necessary trench is first dug as a professional archaeological excavation. That is the required procedure everywhere in Israel before work can be undertaken at sites with archaeological significance. At the Temple Mount, even more care is required. This is the holiest site in the world to Jews: Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple built by Herod once stood on this site. Significant remains - pottery, parts of ancient mosaics, tiles and even architectural fragments - have already been observed in the soil from the excavated part of the trench.

The Waqf has a long history of ignoring Israel's antiquities laws. In 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. The wall was dismantled, destroyed, and covered up. Israel's Supreme Court found in 1993 that the Waqf had violated Israel's antiquities laws on 35 occasions, many involving irreversible destruction of important archaeological remains.

In 1999, the Waqf dug an enormous stairway to accommodate a major expansion of an underground mosque in the southeastern part of the Temple Mount. Hundreds of truckloads of archaeologically rich dirt were dug with mechanical equipment and then dumped into the adjacent Kidron Valley. For over two years Prof. Gabriel Barkay of Bar-Ilan University has been engaged in a major sifting operation of this dirt, finding thousands of artifacts going back more than 3,000 years.