A group of 150 Israeli citizens have filed a class action suit against the Moslems who run the Temple Mount site for having destroyed Jewish antiquities there.

The suit, brought by the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, charges that Islamic Waqf officials have engaged in the deliberate destruction of ancient Jewish relics on the Temple Mount. The indictment was filed in the Jerusalem District Court last week, and Shurat Hadin sources say it is the first of its kind in Israeli legal history.

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"We are utilizing a seldom-applied section of the penal code," Shurat Hadin director Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained, "that allows private citizens to bring a criminal complaint in certain areas. If we win, the Waqf officials could face years in prison."

"Why has this never done before," IsraelNationalRadio's Yishai Fleisher asked.  "Many things have never been done before," Darshan-Leitner said. "You have to think and be creative in order to do these things.  Basically, it’s something that the government should have done... There are certain areas of the penal code in which private citizens are permitted to file a private criminal complaint... The Israeli government has been notified of our suit, and it has 15 days in which to decide whether it wants to pursue it on its own.  If not, then we will do so on our own."

She explained that the 150 plaintiffs are acting as representatives of the Jewish People, who are the owners of the Temple Mount and therefore the injured party as a result of the Waqf actions at the holy site.

"In 1967," Darshan-Leitner said, "after the Six Day War, Israel made a terrible mistake in allowing the Jordanians to continue to run the Temple Mount.  It now continues to be under the custody of the Islamic Trust (Waqf), but is not owned by the Waqf; it is still owned by the Jewish people.  King David purchased it, King Solomon built the Temple there, and the Jewish People have longed to return there ever since the Exile began nearly 2,000 years ago.  Our regaining it in 1967 was the pinnacle of Zionism.  Because it has long been the heritage of the Jewish people, anyone who violates our rights there must be stopped and punished." 

The suit accuses members of the Waqf of intentionally demolishing priceless Jewish artifacts, including remains from the Second Temple.  In recent months, the Waqf brought in bulldozers and heavy digging equipment to dig a long trench on the Mount, supposedly to replace electrical cables.  "Israeli archaeologists who sifted through the discarded earth," the Law Center reports, "were shocked to discover a great number of Jewish artifacts brutally trashed by the bulldozers. A wall from the outer courtyard of the Second Temple is believed to have been completely pulverized."

"The recently accelerated destruction is part of a four-decade-long campaign by the Waqf to eradicate all evidence of the historical Jewish connection and claim to the Temple Mount," the suit maintains. 

Shurat HaDin alleges that the Israeli government, in its "political cowardice," has "consistently refused to undertake any concrete actions to stop the criminal activities of the Waqf."

Darshan-Leitner says, "This private suit is an unprecedented response to the brutal attempt by the Waqf extremists to eradicate any Jewish claim over the Temple Mount. The Waqf leaders belong in prison for their actions, and since Israel's government is refusing to protect Jewish heritage and property, we will prosecute the Waqf ourselves. This legal action is a moral obligation, not only for the Jewish people, but also for the Christian community, which has significant interests in safeguarding the Temple Mount as well."