Everyone is up in arms about Israel’s purported excavations “on” the Temple Mount (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here). There have been calls for a new Intifada, catalyzed apparently by Israel’s construction project.
So what, exactly, are the Israelis doing? Take a look at the below image:
GREEN represents the Temple Mount and surrounding area under complete control of the Waqf.
ORANGE represents the Western Wall.
RED represents the Mugrabi Bridge which is under complete Israeli control as stipulated in the post Six Day War provisions with the Waqf.
Moshe Dayan, having decided to cede control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, despite Israel’s having secured its territory in 1967, nonetheless wished to maintain an entrance on the Israeli side, be it for security reasons or for non-Muslim worshippers who wished to access the Temple Mount from Israel. This entrance was by way of a bridge (RED) to the Mugrabi Gate. This bridge is completely outside of the premises of the Temple Mount.
Why is Israel excavating under the site of the bridge? In order to make sure that no antiquities will be harmed when laying the infrastructure for the new, more structurally sound, Mugrabi Bridge. The original bridge had been damaged in an earthquake and subsequent snowstorm and was declared unsafe by engineers. The new temporary bridge impinged on the women’s section at the Western Wall, significantly reducing it in size.
Is there reason for controversy? Israeli archaeologists are up in arms as the pylons which support the bridge are being built in what it apparently an archaeology “rich” area. The pre-construction excavations currently underway are meant to uncover and remove artifacts which might have otherwise been destroyed by the building. But it is the Israelis who have the right to protest the digging, as it is taking place on Israeli sovereign soil, albeit with the intention of the preservation of priceless antiquities.
This is to be contrasted with continued unmonitored excavations by the Waqf at the Temple Mount which have rendered untold damage to both invaluable antiquities and evidence of the Jewish temples. Israel did not use this violation of the 1967 Protection of Holy Places laws as an excuse for violence, nor was the religious outcry against this desecration anything close to the recent protests against the fabrication of Israel’s damage.
A small group of dedicated archaeologists and volunteers founded the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount to protest the Waqf’s ongoing excavations and to sift through the truckloads of rubble generated for items of archaeological significance (pictures here).
So what can you do?
1. Tell the truth to as many people as you can.
2. Check out this page from the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount’s website.