Thursday, July 06, 2006

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: An interesting article in Haaretz reviews a book by Shmuel Berkovits. Some excerpts:
Temple Mount - not listed in the Land Registry
By Nadav Shragai

Tel Aviv architect Tuvia Sagiv, an amateur but well-known researcher of the history of the Temple Mount, no doubt did not imagine that his influence would go as far as the Oval Office of the president of the United States. However, according to Dr. Shmuel Berkovits, an attorney who has written a new book about the holy places, Sagiv is the source for former president Bill Clinton?s proposal to divide sovereignty over the Temple Mount vertically, from top to bottom. At the end of December 2000, Clinton proposed that the Palestinians get the sovereignty over the level of the mosques while the Jews make do with sovereignty over the depths of the mount, the Western Wall and the Holy of Holies.

Sagiv combed the Temple Mount with radar equipment and infra-red cameras that were operated from helicopters flying above and alongside the site. Relying on these tests, he claimed that the Temple had lain at a depth of 16 meters below the water fountain between Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and that what is known as the Western Wall is not the western wall of the temple but rather part of the wall that was built by the Emperor Adrianus around the Roman shrine that he built on the Temple Mount after the conquest of Jerusalem and its destruction in the second century. Sagiv proposed breaking open a giant gate in the Western Wall through which Jews could go to reach the level of the Temple, under the level of mosques.

Sagiv's revolutionary approach is not in keeping with accepted scholarly opinions. Most of the important archaeologists and rabbis to this day believe that the Holy of Holies is not situated deep under the ground but rather at ground level as we know it at present, exactly at the spot where the rock is located in the Dome of the Rock.

Berkovits, in his new book, "How Dreadful is This Place," recounts the history of Sagiv's theory, which was submitted more than 10 years ago to Ariel Sharon when he was still an opposition member of the Knesset.
I don't think I've heard of Sagiv before. His theory sounds very problematical to me, although I'm not an expert on the archaeology of the Temple Mount. Any archaeologists want to comment?
The book devotes space to the great show of denial the Muslims have initiated in the past few years about everything to do with the existence in the past of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, and it brings examples to illustrate that this is not how things were in the past. A guide to the Temple Mount, put out by the Supreme Muslim Council in 1924, states explicitly that "the identity of the Temple Mount as the site of the holy shrine of Solomon is beyond any kind of doubt." Berkovits' book also quotes texts from the Palestinian historian Aref al-Aref (1892-1973). Al-Aref was the partner of the Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini in the leadership of the Palestinian National Movement at the beginning of the Mandatory period, and in his book, "A Detailed History of Jerusalem," he writes: "The Wailing Wall is the exterior wall of the temple that was reconstructed by Herod ... and the Jews visit there frequently and, on particular, on Tisha B'Av [the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple]. And when they visit the wall, they remember the glorious and unforgettable history and they begin to weep."
My own research on this has led me to the same conclusion. There is a 1930 edition of this pamphlet by the Supreme Muslim Council in the Main Library of the University of St. Andrews. Jewish-Temple denial by Palestinians (and widely also in the Muslim Arab world) seems really to have gotten going after July of 2000 at the Camp David summits, when Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, as reported by a number of eyewitnesses, told negotiators that no Jewish Temple ever existed on the Temple Mount, only an obelisk, and the actual Jewish Temple was in the West Bank city of Nablus. But it was around somewhat before that, going back at least into the early 1990s.

Finally, the final paragraph, which finally ties into the headline
In the last chapter, a fascinating issue is examined. It transpires that the Temple Mount and most of the Western Wall are not registered in any way in the Israel Land Registry ("Tabu") and the issue of who their earthly owners are, has not yet been decided. At the same time, and contrary to what is generally thought to be true, Israel has constantly refrained from expropriating the Western Wall so that this will not be interpreted as a relinquishment of the other walls of the Temple. One part of the Western Wall was expropriated and registered in the Land Registry as property owned by the State of Israel. The area in question is between the southwestern corner of the Western Wall and as far as the "Makhama" building [deep beneath which lie the tunnels from the Second Temple period], along the entire height of the wall.

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