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Temple Mount Collapse Atop Moslem Worshipers Feared

An Israeli report, based on Egyptian findings, states that there is an immediate risk that the Temple Mount could collapse when many thousands of Moslems arrive for Ramadan prayers in three weeks.
First Publish: 9/27/2004, 12:05 PM / Last Update: 9/26/2004, 10:52 AM

A report by the Israel Antiquities Authority, based on the findings of an Egyptian engineering team, states that there is an immediate risk that the Solomon's Stables area of the Temple Mount could collapse when many tens of thousands of Moslem worshipers arrive for Ramadan prayers in three weeks' time. The Authority's report says that the danger is "almost certain."

Israeli security officials are taking the warnings seriously, but it appears that the Moslem officials are less concerned. Although Israel is sovereign over the area, Moslem Waqf officials have forbidden Israeli engineers from entering the area to evaluate the risk. The Waqf has also refused to limit the number of worshipers at the Temple Mount during Ramadan prayers. Even a visit by Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franko to Jordan in an effort to have the Jordanians exert pressure on the Waqf has apparently not succeeded.

Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra says that if there is no choice, the Israel Police will restrict the number of Moslems entering the Temple Mount for the Ramadan services. Waqf director Adnan Husseini says there is no reason for such measures, and that the whole issue is merely "Israeli propaganda."

Over the past several years, the Waqf has made major structural changes on and under the Temple Mount, in a two-pronged effort to expand the mosques there and erase any vestiges of Jewish history at the site. The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest location in the world, where the two Holy Temples were built and destroyed and where the Third Temple will be built. Moslem worshipers are now directed to two main areas on the Mount - on the ground level and on a roof supported by pillars in which cracks have been noted. The unsupervised digging under the site, heavy tiles placed on the upper plateau, and recent earthquakes and weather conditions have all greatly increased the danger of collapse.

The annual Ramadan prayers - which take place every 12 lunar months on the Muslim calendar - attracts tens of thousands of people to the Temple Mount each Friday of the month of Ramadan. A collapse of the pillars could bury many thousands of worshipers, and the Moslem world would likely blame Israel.