Israel is blocking leading archeologists from surveying massive damage Islamic authorities are accused of causing to what experts believe may be an outer wall of the Second Jewish Temple, WND has learned.
"It is unconscionable that the Israeli government is permitting the Waqf 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 told WND.
"The Israeli government is actively blocking us from inspecting the site and what may be a monumental find and is doing nothing while the Waqf destroys artifacts at Judaism's holiest site," charged Mazar, a professor of Hebrew University and member of the Public Committee for Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on Temple Mount.
Mazar also is the discoverer and lead archaeologist of Israel's City of David, believed to be the palace of the biblical King David, the second leader of a united Kingdom of Israel, who ruled from around 1005 to 965 B.C.
Last month, the Waqf, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount, were given permission by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dig a large trench they say is necessary to replace 40-year-old electrical cables for mosques at the holy site. The dig 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 about five feet deep, the Muslim diggers came across a wall Israeli archeologists 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 Waqf has continued using bulldozers to blast away at the trench containing the wall.
Leading Temple Mount archeologists, including Mazar and Gavriel Barkai, petitioned the Israeli government to immediately halt the dig and allow experts to inspect the emerging wall.
But Mazar and other archeologists say they are being blocked by the Israeli government.
"The Antiquities Authority tells us to coordinate with the police. The police send us back to the Antiquities Authority," said Mazar. "It's crucial this wall is inspected. The Temple Mount ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform, meaning anything found is likely from the Temple itself."
Fed up, Mazar and other top archeologists today ascended the Mount to hold a press 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 today with Mazar. He told WND he attempted to take pictures of the damage the bulldozers are allegedly wrecking on the wall, but his digital camera was confiscated by Israeli police at the direction of Waqf officials.
"If Israel was building a shopping mall and they found what may be an ancient Buddhist structure, the government would stop the construction and have archeologists 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 the Waqf was "trying to erase Jewish vestiges from the Temple Mount."
The last time the Waqf 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 Wafq reportedly disposed 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 Wafq, and the dirt was transferred to Israeli archeologists for analysis. The 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 Waqf was widely accused of attempting to hide evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples.