A policeman trying to stop an Arab tractor engaged in illegal Temple Mount excavations was assaulted - and the police chief who arrived on the scene arrested no one.
Officials of the Moslem Waqf (religious body) on the Temple Mount are digging there illegally, likely destroying precious artifacts from as early as the First Temple period. So say eyewitnesses and representatives of the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities.
Gideon Charlap, a top Jerusalem architect and Temple Mount expert, told Arutz-7 what he saw when he visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday: "The Arabs there are digging a deep north-to-south trench, up to a meter [1.1 yards] deep. It is being dug in the area that served during Holy Temple times as the Ezrat Nashim [the area known as the Women's Courtyard, though it was not reserved only for women -ed.]. The trench passes through three east-to-west walls, according to my calculations - walls that probably served as separations for the Temple's offices and the like. This means that the destruction is tremendous..."
"At one point during the digging," Charlap continued, "a policeman - apparently a Druze - tried to stop the work from going on, and actually entered the cabin of the tractor. A struggle ensued, and when the Arabs finally pushed him out, he actually stood in the trench and physically blocked the rest of the work!"
"But instead of stopping the lawbreakers," Charlap related with incredulity, "he tried to 'calm down' the policeman!"
Charlap said that at that point, the chief officer of the Temple Mount police station, Shai Alali, arrived on the scene. "But instead of stopping the lawbreakers," Charlap related with incredulity, "he tried to 'calm down' the policeman!"
Charlap said he was unable to see how the story developed from there, "because our allotted time was over." Jews are permitted onto the site - Judaism's most sacred anywhere in the world - only four or fewer hours a day.
Police Chief Shai Alali was unavailable for comment. A police spokesman told Arutz-7 that the man who tried to stop the digging was not a policeman. Charlap stands by his story, however.
The digging is taking place just east of the Dome of the Rock.
Millennia of Artifacts - Down the Drain
Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist and a leading member of the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities, spoke with Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine about the desecration. "It is an untenable situation," she said. "Underneath the Temple Mount is a closed area, one that has barely been disturbed since the Destruction of the Second Temple. Anyone can realize that remnants of both the First and Second Temples are there, and can guess what damage is being done by the tractor. The most precious findings are just rolling around there and are available to be found - and instead they have a tractor there! If I would try to work with a tractor at one of my digs, the Antiquities Authority would stop me immediately! With a tractor, it's impossible to make any type of careful examination of the earth and pieces being dug up."
"We are a public, voluntary body that has taken upon itself to inform and warn the public about what is going on," Mazar said. "The Antiquities Authority acts as if it is fulfilling its responsibility to supervise - but in fact all they have there is just one man watching but doing nothing. That is not supervision. It's just a deception to say that anyone is overseeing the wanton digging and desecration being carried out there against our greatest national cultural treasure."
Asked if there has been any lull of late in illegal digs on the Temple Mount, Dr. Mazar responded negatively. "They have a clear goal of turning the Temple Mount into a place exclusively for Moslem prayer. In recent years, they have turned two giant structures - at the Huldah Gate and Solomon's Stables - into giant mosques, where none ever stood before... It is totally illegal; how can such violations of the law be allowed - especially in such an important place for Jewish Nation? This is a top archaeological site, and the fact that it's not considered one of the Seven Wonders of the world is our fault, because we don't talk about it enough and certainly don't preserve it enough."
Arutz-7's Uzi Baruch offered, "Perhaps it's because of the politically sensitive nature of the site?"
Mazar answered, "Yes, it's a sensitive spot, but there's a big difference between acting wisely and delicately, on the one hand, and allowing wanton destruction and law-breaking, on the other hand. No good comes of simply turning the other cheek, trying to achieve quiet at any price, and not seeing the future. They want 'quiet now' and they want to appease the Waqf and everyone else - everyone except for those who are concerned for Jewish culture."
"The Antiquities Authority is responsible for preserving antiquities," says Dr. Mazar, "but it is not doing its job on the Temple Mount. The Prime Minister must take this job upon himself and make sure that the law is observed and that the Temple Mount remains an accessible cultural site not only for Moslems, but also for Jews and Christians."