Friday, August 31, 2007

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH - Forbes has more info on the damage caused by the latest Waqf excavation:
On Thursday, Israeli archaeologist Zachi Zweig said a tractor used to dig the trench damaged the foundation of a 7-yard-wide wall "that might have been a remnant of the Second Temple."

Zweig said his group, the Public Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, drew that conclusion because of the location of the damaged foundation.

"We saw the damage for ourselves and documented it," he said.

The Second Temple was built by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 515 B.C. and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

The tractor dug a trench that was 4 feet deep, Zweig said.

"The bedrock at this location is very shallow, so there is a high probability that ancient remnants were damaged," he added.

The top Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, Mufti Mohammed Hussein, rejected the Israeli group's charges.

"We don't harm the antiquities, we are the ones who are taking care of the antiquities, unlike others who destroy them," the mufti said.

Zweig said the Israel Antiquities Authority supervisor who was assigned to oversee the cable replacement was a novice archaeologist. "The oversight was a joke," he said.

The authority had no comment.
Earlier coverage here.

UPDATE: Additional coverage in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. The latter also has new info on the sifting project on the Waqf's earlier illicit excavations:
In a related development yesterday, new artifacts discovered in sifting through earth removed from the Temple Mount were presented at the eighth annual City of David archaeological conference.

The project, now in its third year, entails scrutinizing truckloads of earth removed by the Waqf in 1999.

Among the ancient finds were numerous stone tiles intended for flooring, some of which have been identified as designed for use in the Roman-era mosaic work known as opus sectile, in which colorful tiles were cut into shapes and fitted into geometric patterns.

"The discovery of stone tiles used in opus sectile flooring in [earth from] the Temple Mount is one of the most important discoveries of the dirt-sifting work," Barkai said, "and it might aid in reconstructing the appearance and character of the Temple's outer courtyard."
Also, denials from "Israeli officials" according to the APF:
Doubts over 'second temple remains' in Jerusalem

Israeli officials cast doubt Friday over claims that remains of the second Jewish temple might have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

"If that was the case, the antiquities authority, which has an observer on site, as well as police, also monitoring the work, would have stepped in," said archaeologist Dan Bahat, a former excavations official in Jerusalem.
And the Al Aqsa Foundation (not sure what that is) responds:
A statement issued by the institution read that the Israeli parties have dubbed the maintenance works as barbarian, confirming that any construction works inside the Islamic shrine are the responsibility of the Waqf committee.

The Al-Aqsa foundation rejected the Israeli incitement against the Islamic Waqf ‘endowment’ committee, declaring willingness to defy all Israeli interventions in the mosque’s affairs.
UPDATE: Predictably, it seems that this episode is generating more Jewish-Temple denial and other way-out claims from the usual suspects:
Israel is conspiring to encroach on the Temple Mount to build a Jewish temple near the Al-Aqsa mosque, Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement northern branch, said Thursday.

Salah called on Arab and Muslim nations to "prevent the division of the Al-Aqsa by Israel."

In a letter to Arab kings and leaders of Muslim countries, Salah urged all Muslims to torpedo "Israel's plan that aims at dividing the Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews whereas in the Jewish part it plans to build its imaginary temple."
UPDATE (4 September): More here.