In 1967, Jerusalem once again became a united city under Israel's sovereignty. The Old City section fell under Israeli administration. Since then, every Israeli President and Prime Minister has proclaimed the ever-lasting devotion of the Israeli people and government to the holiest place, revered by Jews, Christians and Moslems.
For over 30 years Israel has in fact delegated almost all authority over the Temple Mount to the Islamic Clerics. By doing this, Israel showed her commitment to respect the rights of the Muslims.
Now, as incredible as it seems, the Islamic Clerics deny any non-Moslem connection to the site. The Moslems also prevent archaeologists from investigating the site, one of the world’s most prominent ancient treasures.
Israel has accepted its present inability to actively explore the Temple Mount. However, It is one thing to prevent exploration, and quite another to bulldoze through ancient structures without any archeological supervision.
In 1996 the Islamic Clerics changed the accepted status quo that was kept for generations and converted two ancient underground Second Temple Period structures into a new large mosque. Both structures, known as Solomon’s stables and the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway, were never mosques before. The new mosque extends over an area of 1.5 acres, thus being the largest mosque in Israel, able to accommodate 10,000 people.
In November 1999, the Islamic Clerics opened what they called an “emergency exit” to the new mosque. Over 3 days and nights the exit has expanded into a gaping hole, 18,000 square feet in size, and up to 36 feet deep. Thousands of tons of the ancient fills from the site, subsequently found by Israeli archeologists to contain artifacts dating as early as the First Temple Period, were dumped into the Kidron Valley.
Since the creation of the gaping hole and up until now, without any archaeological supervision, thousands of square-meters of the ancient surface level of the Temple Mount are dug up by tractors, paved and announced as open mosques.
Moreover, in 1997 another ancient underground Second Temple Period structure, known as the Western Hulda Gate passageway, has been converted into another new mosque. Recently, in February and March of 2001, an ancient arched structure built against the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount enclosure was razed by bulldozers in order to enlarge further the “emergency gate” of the new mosque at the Stables of Solomon.
During the last 15 months, somewhat belatedly, public effort within Israel galvanized to demand a stop to the modern construction and destruction on the Temple Mount. Urgent letters were sent to the Prime Minister and ministers, warning about “a serious act of irreparable vandalism and destruction carried out without supervision, while abrogating the law.”
An open letter about the destruction, sent to the Prime Minister, was signed by numerous highly-respected individuals including former mayor Teddy Kollek and current mayor Ehud Olmert, authors Amos Oz and Haim Gouri, and by 82 members of Israel Knesset. Indeed, it should not be surprising that Israelis are appalled that the law requiring the preservation of all holy places is brazenly ignored on the Temple Mount, the most holy place to more people than any other site around the world.
Furthermore, the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount goes hand in hand with the Israeli policy illegally preventing the press from visiting the area. The claim that “security concerns” require Israeli indulgence is not only disputed by former and current security officials, but also by the outside world, who look upon this sacred place being demolished while Israeli authorities indifferently stand by.
The Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, founded in January 2000, is an a-political volunteer group, made up of well-known Israeli public figures, archaeologists, writers, lawyers, justices and members of the Security Services.
The committee was formed in order to preserve the antiquities on the Temple Mount irrespective of political, national or religious affiliation.
The committee demands from the Israeli government:
1. To stop the destruction on the Temple Mount
2. To open the Temple Mount to Israeli and international media.
3. To enable the Antiquities Authority to fulfill its duties and guard the antiquities in the State of Israel.
4. To see that the status quo on the Temple Mount is kept and otherwise all changes should be deeply considered and undertaken in a way that would not destroy ancient remains.
Still, until today, (June, 2001) brutal destruction occurs along the eastern wall of the Temple Mount enclosure. Modern construction continues to destroy ancient structures of the Temple Mount. Tractors are continuing construction work without any archaeological supervision, and a large stone saw there works non-stop, cutting dozens of ancient stones into slabs used for the new paving and construction on the Temple Mount.