Temple Mount Challenges

New Temple Mount excavations being carried out by the Islamic Wakf and attempts by the PA to transform the Temple Mount into a Palestinian national site have sparked growing concern for the future of Judaism's holiest site.

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Several attempts have been made recently to strengthen and assert Muslim hegemony over the Temple Mount. Of particular concern is the renewal of excavations undertaken by the Islamic Wakf and attempts by the Palestinian Authority to transform the Temple Mount into a Palestinian national site.

The Islamic Wakf Authority has renewed excavations on the Temple Mount, with over two feet of earth dug out and work continuing daily. The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. The Wakf claims that they are replacing a sewer and water line, but due to a dubious track record and their refusal to allow inspections of the project archeologists and Temple Mount activists remain suspicious of the real reason for the construction.

The police have prevented activists from inspecting the extent of the damage to the holy site by the Wakf Authority. An archeology student was threatened with arrest yesterday (Wednesday) for approaching the section being dug up and was not permitted to obtain details from the construction team in order to file a police complaint.

In the past, construction by the Wakf has resulted in archaeological devastation. Officials of the Israel Antiquities Authority reported that the destruction of artifacts in the past occurred during Wakf excavations and led to the worst damage to the Temple Mount since the destruction of the Second Temple.

The transformation of the area beneath the Temple Mount into an immense mosque six years ago went nearly unchallenged by the Barak government. “Solomon’s Stables,” an underground architectural support of the mount, was gutted and expanded and is now home to the largest mosque in Israel, seating 30,000 people.

Upon the re-opening of the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, Minister of Public Security Tzachi Hanegbi said there was to be "total supervision" of the site, which he said would prevent further archaeological destruction caused by unsupervised and unauthorized Wakf construction. Hanegbi said that officials would not permit "one stone" up to the mount without police approval, adding that since he assumed his position he has not heard any complaints from the Antiquities Authority over the lack of archaeological supervision at the site.

In an alarming development, Jerusalem police arrested five Arab residents of Jerusalem on suspicion of trying to establish a Temple Mount authority under the auspices of the PA..

According to a senior police official, the PA intends to take control of the Mount from the Wakf Authority, which operates under Jordanian auspices. Police believe this is the first time the PA attempted to take control of the holy site from the Wakf. Police are continuing the investigation and additional arrests are expected in the case.

Yassir Arafat has long expressed his desire to pray at the Al Aksa mosque, located on the Temple Mount. He has repeatedly urged Palestinians to become martyrs for the sake of the Al-Aksa Mosque. Arabs call the terrorist war launched over the last three years, the Al Aksa intifadah (uprising), making it the focal point of their struggle.

Recent reports that Yassir Arafat had been given a burial plot on the Temple Mount and intends to be buried there have caused a stir in the Knesset.

Following his submission of a bill outlawing burial on the Temple Mount, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said, “Arafat wants to transform the site where the first and second Jewish Temples once stood and the Jewish Kingdom reigned for the last 3,000 years not only into a religious Muslim center, but a political center.” MK Eldad added, “I propose that just as many Jews wish to be buried in the land of their fathers, having their bodies brought to Israel for burial, Yassir Arafat should be returned to Egypt, his homeland, for burial.”

The Temple Mount is open to Jews Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 AM until 10:00 AM and again from 12:00 PM until 1:30 PM. Recent months have seen thousands of Jewish visitors ascending the Mount, with entire Yeshivot (Torah Academies) visiting Judaism’s holiest site.

IsraelNationalNews.com asked one recent Hareidi-religious visitor about the fact that many of the Rabbis in the Hareidi community are hesitant to encourage their constituents to visit the Temple Mount because entry into certain parts of the Temple site makes one liable for 'karet' (the Biblically-mandated Divine punishment of 'cutting off from the Jewish people'). The man - an educator in the Sochatchover Yeshiva in Jerusalem - explained that because we know the exact sites that are forbidden, those who follow Jewish law need not worry that they will walk onto an area that is even near one of the banned areas. He then added sarcastically, "Look who's talking about being 'cut off' - a people that already has its head cut off [referring to the Holy Temple]! We are like a body without a head - and it's of course much more comfortable to live just a 'fleshy' [materialistic] existence, without our 'head'..."

He expressed hope that the steady number of Jews visiting the holy site - after ritual immersion in a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), removal of leather shoes, and knowledge of the permitted areas – will continue to increase until Jews once again become "regulars" there.


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