Barak Orders Halt to WAQF Digging on Temple Mount
Caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday finally requested police to meet with Islamic Waqf officials in Jerusalem and halt the reported destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount.
Despite appeals from archaeologists, 82 Members of the Knesset and even leading Israeli doves, Barak has refused over the past year or so to order the halt unsupervised construction work on the Temple Mount which, according to persistent press reports, has resulted in the destruction or discarding of ancient relics dating back to the Jewish temple eras. But with only days left in office, Barak appears to be responding to alarming new reports of bulldozing along the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount compound, near the new grand entrance to the underground Marwani mosques created in the area known as Solomon's Stables. Barak's directive followed his receipt of a letter from the head of the Antiquities Department detailing the new construction.
A representative from the Public Security Ministry met Thursday with Waqf officials to seek clarification about the construction work underway. Dirt and remnants of the ancient walls were removed by bulldozers without any archaeological supervision. Two arches were also revealed parallel to the Eastern Wall.
A senior official in the Internal Security Ministry confirmed the construction work on Wednesday, THE JERUSALEM POST reported. In November 1999, the Barak government approved work on an emergency exit from the Marwani mosque in Solomon's Stables, an underground chamber altered to accommodate 10,000-15,000 for Muslim prayers. Waqf officials, however, opened a massive entrance instead, and have been working frantically ever since pursuant to a plan to pave or revamp the entire compound to make it one huge prayer facility, all considered part of the Al-Aqsa mosque and comparable in size to the grand mosque in Mecca.
Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archeologist from Hebrew University and a member of the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities, noted that an aerial photograph the group had taken on Monday shows a tractor in action near Solomon's Stables. "What we see here is the destruction of ancient arched structures just outside Solomon's Stables," Mazar told THE JERUSALEM POST.
By police recommendation, the Temple Mount has been off limits to Israeli Jews and Christians - including archaeologists and reporters - since the Palestinian intifada erupted in late September.
Throughout the past year or more of wanton Muslim destruction of the rich treasure trove of antiquities on the Temple Mount, neither the United Nations, it antiquities forum UNESCO, nor any of its member states condemned the Waqf's actions there. But in an interesting development that demonstrates the widespread international bias against Israel, the UN warned Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Friday of a devastating reaction if it continued with a campaign to destroy ancient rock-hewn statutes of Buddhas scattered throughout the mountainous country.
Taliban sources in Kabul acknowledged that mortars and cannon were being used to destroy the two giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, defying world protests at the move. They consist of the world's tallest standing Buddha, measuring 175 feet, and a smaller Buddha standing 120 feet, which are listed as world heritage treasures.
Francesc Vendrell, assistant secretary-general and head of the UN special mission to Afghanistan, said he had told Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil of the world anger over the destruction in a three-hour meeting in Kabul on Thursday. "I conveyed to him the extremely serious concerns of the secretary-general, of the international community," Vendrell said in an interview with REUTERS. "I asked him to convey to the leadership that the implementation of the edict would have devastating effects for the image of the Taliban abroad," he said. "I hope it is not true because if it is true the international reaction is going to be extremely negative," he said. "I think it would be a shocking thing to do." Even Muslim Pakistan, the Taliban's main supporter, has appealed for a halt to the destruction.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.