Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Whose holy sites are the Western Wall tunnels?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Court Petition: Western Wall Tunnels a Holy Site for Christians, Muslims Too. Group of Israeli archaeologists say the tunnels run through, under, over and alongside religious sites holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
The High Court of Justice has agreed to hear a petition asking why the Western Wall Tunnels have been declared a holy site for Jews and not for Muslims and Christians as well.

The petition was filed by Emek Shaveh, a group of archaeologists seeking to prevent the politicization of archaeology. It came after the Religious Services Ministry’s legal adviser, Hagay Avrahami, said in a letter the tunnels were governed by the regulations preserving Jewish holy sites because the entrance to them leads from the Western Wall Plaza.

This means that all the rules governing the Western Wall apply in the tunnels, as well as in the large spaces that have been discovered in recent years under homes in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The decision was made after a consultation with Israel’s chief rabbis, Avrahami said.

The petition states that these underground spaces, which have been excavated continuously since the early 1980s, also include structures holy to Christianity and Islam.

The point that the area has elements holy to Christianity and Islam is certainly correct, but it isn't clear to me what the practical issue is. Is there a process through the Religious Services Ministry that can declare sites holy to Christianity and Islam and was this neglected? What are the practical implications of the current declaration and what does Emek Shaveh want done about them? The answers to these questions may be obvious to those more familiar with these political structures in Israel, but they aren't obvious to me, and I wish the article had spelled them out more clearly.

Past posts on Emeq Shaveh's activities and its political perspective (which is not as objective as implied above) are here, here, here, here, and links. Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the tunnel excavations in Jerusalem are collected here.

Cross-file under Politics.