April 22, 2001 –


Temple Mount artifacts looted


 PALESTINIAN pirates are brazenly digging up Jewish artifacts from the holy Temple Mountsite and trying to sell them on the black market for as much as $1 million.As surprising as it might seem, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak allowed the digging - over the protests of Israeli archaeologists, who view it as the destruction of thousands of years of Jewish heritage. One top archeologist described the digging as "a real genocide of our history by the Palestinians." Recently, I was permitted to see some of the artifacts – and they clearly indicated they belong to the eras of the First and Second Temple. Two of the artifacts were ostrakons, pottery shards with ink

inscriptions in ancient Hebrew. The First Temple on the mount was destroyed around 585 B.C. Both ostrakons date from around 700 B.C. One of them mentions the name "Jerusalem," and refers to a struggle over it. The other mentions Ein Rogel, a small hill within the city limits where the Jewish kings of Judea were crowned. I also saw four identical silver coins, which carried the words "the saint Jerusalem," and their value, "shekel Israel." They had indications they were minted in the second year of the Jewish revolt - meaning three years before the Roman legions of Titus destroyed the Second Temple. When I touched the coins, I imagined for a second that they passed through the hands of the brave Jewish warriors who challenged the Roman

empire around 70 A.D. Some of the artifacts I saw were saved by the Palestinians for the black market, since selling them is illegal. The Palestinians are asking at least $100,000 for an ostrakon. Recently, the Temple Mount pirates tried to sell a decorated, carved stone menorah, with seven branches, for more than $1 million. Of course, the pirates don't admit what their source is. Not only do they not fear arrest by the Israelis, butt hey are obeying Yasser Arafat's policy of denying - and trying to eradicate- any sign of Jewish linkage to the Temple Mount. At Camp David last July,

Barak naively told Arafat that he was ready to give him control of most of Temple Mount, one way or another. But he said that Palestinians must recognize the Jewish right to the lower part of the Mount, which includes the Western Wall and what is believed to be the hidden remains of the Second Temple. Arafat immediately said no, insisting it all belongs to the Muslims, and that there never was a Temple Mount. But the cultural destruction had already begun. In November 1999, Barak allowed the Wakf, the Muslim religious directorate, to dig on Temple Mount on the pretext of preparing for construction of a new mosque. Unsupervised, the Muslims brought in heavy digging equipment and carted away trucks full of rubble.