New Tunnel Would Connect Old City Muslim and Jewish Quarters

Western Wall officials want to dig a tunnel to connect the area with a Muslim Quarter synagogue, rebuilt after Arabs destroyed it in 1948.

Hana Levi Julian ,

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has proposed building a tunnel to connect the Western Wall tunnels in Old Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter with the rebuilt Ohel Yitzchak synagogue in the Muslim Quarter. The synagogue was abandoned during the Arab riots in 1936 and later was blown up by the Jordanian army during its conquest of the Jewish Quarter in the 1948 War of Independence.

A group of government agencies is considering the plan to build an underground passage, but Muslim clerics already have condemned it as a trick to enable Jews to destroy the Al Aksa mosque.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and security services would have to approve the project, which comes less than a year after construction work near the Temple Mount was stopped by rioting Muslims around the world who accused Israel of trying to undermine to foundations of mosques.

The latest accusations by Muslim clerics neglect to mention that the proposed new tunnel would be located more than 100 yards away from the Temple Mount.  In addition, construction work on the underground passageway would be minimized by using areas created by existing archaeological excavations beneath the Muslim Quarter.

The artifacts uncovered by the digs would be preserved and displayed in a museum and educational institute to be built at the site of the synagogue as well as at the excavations beneath it.  The Western Wall Heritage Foundation would manage and maintain the site. Security officials have toured the site and are presently reviewing the plans.

IAA personnel monitoring a controversial dig of a trench by the Muslim Waqf on the Temple Mount this past summer discovered traces of the First Temple era in the area close to the southeastern corner of the raised platform surrounding the Dome of the Rock.

Jerusalem District Archaeologist Yuval Baruch uncovered fragments of ceramic table wares, animal bones and other artifacts dating from the 8th to 6th centuries BCE. The First Temple, built by King Solomon in 832 BCE, was destroyed in 422 BCE.

Excavations at the site which began in 2004 under the aegis of the IAA uncovered the most complete relic of the Mameluke period ever discovered in Jerusalem, according to archaeologist Baruch.

The find included a giant bathhouse with a completely intact dressing room, as well as pieces of the ovens used to produce steam for the bathhouse and the vents that carried the warm air into the rooms.

Also discovered among the ruins were artifacts from the Roman, Byzantine, early Muslim and Crusader periods.