Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Let It Fall

Today, architects, engineers and archaeologists are shouting that the Temple Mount retaining walls are in danger of collapse.
Published: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 7:15 PM


The first time people started yelling and screaming that the Temple Mount was in danger of collapse was when Binyamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister back in 1996. He had authorized the opening of the Western Wall tunnels that run along the entire western side of the Temple Mount and end in the Moslem Quarter. The Palestinian Authority began disseminating propaganda that "the Jews" where tunneling under the Temple Mount in order to blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fact is that these particular tunnels do not extend under the Temple Mount, but the Palestinians cried wolf anyway. In the end, the tunnels were opened and everyone forgot about it until now.

The Temple Mount was built by King Herod of Judea at the end of the first century BCE. He was hated by the Jews and was himself not halachically Jewish. He slaughtered the Maccabee family, the true heirs to the throne in Jerusalem, and then married the last Maccabean princess before murdering her, too. He thought that if he rebuilt the Temple in grand Roman fashion he would be loved by both Jews and Romans alike. Fat chance.

Herod built four walls atop the holy Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, where traditionally, Abraham bound Isaac and Solomon built the first Temple to the one true God. He then filled it in with dirt to make it larger (815 X 815 ft.) and then built a brand new Temple over the Second Temple before taking apart the old Second Temple. The Western Wall is one of these four retaining walls that the new Second Temple sat upon. The others, as logic goes, are the southern, eastern and northern walls. The Western Wall is holy to the Jews not because it is a remnant of the holy Temple, but because our tradition holds that the Shechinah or "God's Spirit" rested on the Western Wall after the Temple was destroyed.

Today, architects, engineers and archaeologists are shouting that the Temple Mount retaining walls are in danger of collapse. If one or more of the four retaining walls does collapse, it could mean the end for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the 7th century jewel of Arabic architecture, the Dome of the Rock, which sits more or less on the same site as Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple used to sit before their destruction. Of course, the Waqf (Palestinian religious authority of Jerusalem) is pointing its finger not inward, where the blame lies, but outward at - you guessed it - the Jews.

During the autumn months of 2000, Palestinians began carrying out illegal construction of an underground mosque in the "Solomon Stables" part of the Temple Mount. This construction has not halted during the last four years and a "bulge" in the southern (retaining) wall appeared in the fall of 2002. The unauthorized construction destroyed Jewish antiquities thousands of years old, but both the Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon governments were afraid of the repercussions if police halted the work on the new "mosque", which is housed amongst the arches constructed by King Herod more than two thousand years ago to support the southern part of the Temple Mount. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you harm these arches, the floor and walls may come crumbling down. However, if you deny that there ever was a Second Temple, I guess it is easy to deny that these very arches supported it.

The Israel Antiquities Authority wanted to carry out repair work and oversee the excavations of the Temple Mount area, which it is entitled to do under Israeli law. The Waqf, however, refused to allow this and the Israeli governments did not force the issue. A "compromise" was reached whereby Jordanian archaeologists would oversee repairs on the south wall. The work, however, seems shoddy and many Israeli experts say the repairs are just a band aid for the effect, rather than a fix of the cause. An earthquake in February 2004 again struck the foundations of the Temple Mount, causing damage this time to the eastern (retaining) wall. Again, a key structural weakness pointed out by the Israel Antiquities Authority is the "Solomon Stables" part of the Temple Mount. The Waqf, of course, denies that any structural cracks exist in the eastern wall.

So, what are we to do? It seems to me that if the Israeli government is too afraid to enforce the rule of law on the Temple Mount, and allows the wholesale destruction of Jewish history by the Moslem authorities, then it should at the same time have no regard for any damage that befalls the Temple Mount caused by illegal construction by those very same people. If they damage the Temple Mount building a mosque, then let them fix it themselves. If the eastern and southern walls come crumbling down, let them come down. Herod was a beast of a being and we should not hold his creations as anything holy, anyway. If Mount Moriah is exposed once again to sunlight for the first time in 2,000 years due to Arab negligence, then so be it.

There is a story (that I can not confirm is true) that tour guides like to tell here in Israel when touring the Old City. After the Six Day War, Moshe Dayan, Yitzchak Rabin and the IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, were touring the newly liberated Jewish Quarter when they came upon a majestic view of the Dome of the Rock. Rabbi Goren suggested that the soldiers take the excess explosives not used during the war and blow it up to hasten the arrival of the Third Temple. Dayan and Rabin looked at each other and ignored the comment. Later, a policy of religious tolerance was declared by the Israeli government and all Christian, Moslem and Jewish holy sites were declared protected for the first time in Jerusalem since King Solomon's reign 3,000 years earlier.

Well, folks, as it turns out, Rabbi Goren may just get his wish and it will only be because of the uncompromising hatred of the Palestinians and their Moslem fundamentalist brothers.