A demonstration was held Wednesday, December 26th, at the northern entrance to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in protest of the Waqf’s continued destruction of archaeological artifacts in the area under its jurisdiction. The demonstrators, led by Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene and save these unique antiques currently being destroyed by the Waqf.
The Waqf, a Muslim Jordanian religious body entrusted with the management of the Temple Mount, has been renovating the Temple Mount for years. In the process they have been moving mounds of earth off the mountain. These piles contain numerous archaeological artifacts from many centuries. In 2004 the High Court of Justice passed a ruling prohibiting the removal of the dirt from the Temple Mount elsewhere, until the contents are combed for artifacts. Since then, these artifacts have been lying at the bottom of the mountain in accumulating mounds. Many of the artifacts dug up are currently being ruined by the weather, after being preserved for centuries.
Yitzchak Dvira, an archaeologist, recently published a report about the Waqf’s continued disregard of the High Court’s ruling. In his report he states that since the ruling in 2004, many piles of earth have accumulated on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, and the Waqf continues to move the earth from the Temple Mount to dump sites in eastern Jerusalem. Dvira has documented several recent incidents of heavy machinery moving earth away from the Temple Mount. These actions have contributed to the loss of important artifacts of Jewish, Christian and Muslim history on the Temple Mount.
Dvira and his crew have sifted through piles of earth removed from the Mount and have recovered many artifacts belonging to various historical periods. They have recovered seals baring the names of priests mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, support beams from the First Temple, remnants of the structure of the Second Temple, arrow heads and horse-shoe nails from the Crusades Period and even artifacts from the Muslim Period, which the Waqf neglected to preserve.
Dvira states that he sees dozens of such artifacts every day in the mounds on the side of the Temple Mount. He told Tazpit News Agency that he believes the earth piles should be removed from the Temple Mount, but it should be done in a supervised fashion, ensuring no further loss of artifacts. Dvira submitted his report to the official bodies entrusted with the supervision of the enforcement of the High Court’s ruling and the preservation of the artifacts. The police have released a statement in which they declare that all construction on the Temple Mount is under their close supervision, and that Dvira’s claims are incorrect. As of now, all other bodies have not provided a response.
Dvira points out that all issues regarding the Temple Mount are overseen by the Prime Minister’s office, and he suspects that there is consent on their part to the Waqf’s actions. It was reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with King Abdullah of Jordan last week. Dvira believes they discussed issues related to the Temple Mount. The Jordanians have been pressuring the Israeli government to allow the removal of the earth mounds on the side of the Temple Mount.
Dvira and the Temple Mount organization warn that this continued neglect and disregard of the law will bring to further loss of unrecoverable historical relics, and they intend to petition the High Court on the issue again.