Archeologists Press Israel to Halt Destruction on Temple Mount [Excerpts]
Archeologists in Jerusalem are calling on the Israeli government to stop what they consider the wanton destruction of thousands of years of archeological artifacts by Islamic religious authorities on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The WAKF (the Islamic religious authorities in charge of the Temple Mount) has been digging a five-foot trench with a bulldozer on Jerusalem's Temple Mount for more than a month. They say it is necessary to replace decades-old electrical cables.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office and the state-run Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have given their approval for the work, but independent Israeli archeologists have condemned the move, charging that accepted archeological practices are not being followed at the site.
The Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount has now asked Israel's supreme court to intervene.
Any kind of digging in the Old City, where thousands of years of successive civilizations are layered on top of one another, requires permission from the IAA and careful professional supervision of the site.
The petition, signed by prominent archeologists, retired Israeli army generals, and other prominent public figures, maintains that the courtyards of the ancient Jewish Temple were located where the digging is going on. It says that some 400 tons of dirt has been removed, which likely contains invaluable archeological artifacts.
In some places the bedrock is only a half meter (1.5 feet) deep, so digging below that could damage ground layers some of which may have been in place since the first Temple stood there 3,000 years ago.
Originally the site of the two successive Jewish Temples, the last of which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, the Temple Mount it is revered as Judaism's holiest site.