Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Walls and Gates of Jerusalem - The City of David - The Temple Mount in Jerusalem

The Walls and Gates of Jerusalem
by Jacqueline Schaalje

The walls of Jerusalem's Old City have been more or less in the same place as today from the first century CE onwards. That is remarkable because they were destroyed many times.
There is one exception: just after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the year 70, when Jews were forbidden to worship in the city, and the population dwindled starkly. But the emperor Hadrian built a wall along the familiar outlines again, which today denote the Old City, after he had destroyed the old walls in the showdown of the Second Jewish War (132-135 CE).
The Roman Jerusalem, now named Aelia Capitolina, was not a busy place as all of its Jews had been banned. Jerusalem popped back to life only in the 3rdcentury, when the Roman empire became Christian and pilgrims flocked the holy city. That's why empress Eudokia included the City of David in the new wall that she built, because citizens had sought homes in that part.
But in the 10th century the southeast suburb dropped off again, after Jerusalem had peacefully adopted Islamic rule. Caliph el-Aziz was not convinced that the city of David had any strategic value in an expected attack by the Byzantine emperor John Zimisces.
In the struggles between Moslems and Crusaders a series of new walls were built and destroyed before the present walls were undertaken by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-66). He was a tireless conqueror, whose campaigns took him to Europe, Persia and Iraq, and when he started his Jerusalem project he was still embroiled in war. But Jerusalem's walls were crumbling and Suleiman deemed strong walls essential against possible threats from Europe and local Bedouin tribes.
Despite the necessity, the work was very slow. It started with the north wall, because Jerusalem had always been attacked from this side in the past. Only three years later, in 1540, the south wall was completed. The problem seems to have been money; in the end most of it arrived from Damascus in a silver transport that was accompanied by the Sultan's private troops, the Janissaries. The rest was paid from local taxes.
Work on the south wall was held up because of a dispute about whether Mount Zion was to be incorporated or not. In the end it wasn't, to Suleiman's chagrin, because he wanted to harbor all Jerusalem's inhabitants regardless which religion they adhered to (Mount Zion was owned and inhabited by monks). When he returned and found the wall a fait accompli, he ordered the execution of the two architects. According to another story he executed two monks.
Since the time of Suleiman, none of Israel's new rulers had felt compelled to improve upon his architecture, and indeed it is hard to see how that would be possible. The two main gates, Jaffa and Damascus gates, were enforced with towers. There are 35 towers in all and both these and the walls have turrets and merlons from where snipers could fire.
Four of Suleiman's gates retain their original L-shape. The other two have been widened to accommodate cars instead of donkeys. All gates still have their Ottoman decoration: a curved lintel with Arabic inscription, under a broken arch. Their doors were made of wood and iron and were locked every evening. The gates all have an Arabic name, but also a Hebrew one, and sometimes more than one, to make matters confusing.
The importance of gates are attested to numerous times in the Bible, for instance in Psalms: "Our feet stood within thy gate, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem built up, a city knit together (122:2-3)." Prophetic words, or maybe just utopian. Nowadays, some of the old exciting hustle and bustle is concentrated around the Damascus Gate. The other gates are quieter.

It's a good idea to visit the walls on the ramparts. Opening hours are on weekdays and earlier hours on Friday, tickets are available at Jaffa Gate or Damascus Gate. The attractions consist of magnificent views over Jerusalem and explanatory signs. There is a protective railing. Alternatively the wall can be traced by foot on the outside path.
Jaffa Gate and vicinity
Jaffa Gate is called so because of the Jaffa road leading to it. Suleiman's name for it was Bab el-Khalil, the Gate of the Friend, which is a reference to Hebron which takes its Arabic name from Abraham, the friend of God (Isa. 41:8). In 1917 the British general Allenby entered the city through it. Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 to 1967, the door was closed.
Just inside the gate, legend accords the two graves behind the iron fence to the executed architects from Suleiman's age. Or to the monks of Mount Zion. But actually they are of a Jerusalemite couple.
Behind Jaffa Gate there is a breach in the wall. This part was taken down and the Citadel of David's moat was filled in 1898 when the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany visited the city. His carriage rode through it, just like taxi's today, and Wilhelm did not need to descend.

Night inside the Jaffa Gate
The area from Jaffa Gate to the southwest corner has been excavated on the outside and shows older versions of the wall. Suleiman's wall was built on the second century Hasmonean wall, which can be seen at a projection at the first tower's base, and also in its outer corner. King Herod (37-4 BCE) built a wall just outside the Hasmonean one. His wall was thicker because he needed a strong wall to buttress his palace which lay just on the wall's inside.
The next tower is Herodian at its base, which is visible between the rock. On top of it stands a Medieval tower, which is itself crowned by Turkish stonework. One balk is left to show the ground level before the excavations. The Herodian wall leads to another tower, which had an earlier first century gate. Through this, the Romans entered the city in the fall of 70, as is related by the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius (The Jewish War 6:374-99).
The two towers on the right of the gate are both Turkish. The last one was built on top of a gigantic medieval tower which had been destroyed.
Zion Gate
In Arabic it is called Bab Nabi Daud, or the gate of the prophet David, because king David is believed to rest on Mount Zion, which this gate discloses. In 1948 the gate was riddled with bullet holes during the fighting for the Jewish Quarter. The Palmach fighters reached the gate but did not hold it.

The View Outside of the Zion Gate
Here again the excavations have been preserved and have explanatory signs. Inside the gate, to the right, there are ruins of diverse Medieval and Arabic bulwarks and a large four-columned hall. The eastern part of the hall served as a bathhouse. In the corner of the wall there is an amphitheater, built on a Byzantine cistern, whose inscription dates it to 549 and attributes it to the emperor Flavius Justinian.
Outside the Zion Gate, the excavations show the Arabic tower that is also seen on the inside, projecting from the wall. Just before the corner a part of a first century aqueduct is visible; this used to bring water from Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Another part of it can be seen in the next section, near the Temple Area, where a deep narrow channel runs under the wall. Near the path there are the ruins of a Jewish house that was destroyed by the Romans in 70.
Dung Gate
The Arabic name Bab el-Magharbeh means the Gate of the Moors, a reference to Muslim immigrants who came to Jerusalem from North Africa during the time of Suleiman.
Jews called it the Dung Gate after a gate that had been there in the wall that Nehemiah built: "And I went by the gate of the valley, at night, toward the spring of the serpent and Dung Gate and I saw breaks in the walls of Jerusalem that were breached and the gates consumed with fire (Neh. 2:13)." It was apparently used to clean out waste. The Dung Gate gate was widened in 1953 by the Jordanians who used it to drive vehicles to the citadel (because Jaffa Gate was closed).
In the base of the wall, westwards in the direction of Zion Gate, there are remains of Jewish Mikvahs, the ritual baths, of the Herodian period and cisterns which were cut in the rock. The cisterns belong to houses of the same period. Next to the gate itself, on its left side, is a medievaltower. It has a postern gate which is called Tanners' postern gate, because of a cattle market that used to be just inside the wall and tanneries which were nearby.
Stephen's Gate
This gate, just after passing the Temple Mount, is called Bab el-Ghor, or Jordan Gate, but this name did not stick. In English it is known as Stephen's Gate, a name that refers to Byzantine pilgrims who used an earlier gate of this name to enter the city.
The Hebrew name is Lion's Gate; this comes from the heraldic emblems of the Mamluk sultan Baybars (13thcentury) which are placed at either side of the gate. There is a local legend which tells that these are the lions that were ready to eat Suleiman's father, the Ottoman sultan Selim I ('the Grim') if he were to continue with his plan to destroy Jerusalem.
The original L-shape of the gate was destroyed during the British Mandate in order for cars to reach the Austrian hospital. In 1967 Israeli paratroopers entered Jerusalem through this gate. Despite it having been widened an Israeli tank got stuck in it.
Herod's Gate
The Arabic Bab es-Zahr means the Flowered Gate, because of the flower engraving above the entrance. It was named after Herod in the 16th or 17th century because pilgrims mistook a Mamluk house just inside the gate for the palace of Herod Antipas (41-44).
Going towards Damascus Gate the channel of an aqueduct is visible. This is interesting because of pottery which dates to the 3rd or early 4th century, which demonstrates that the aqueduct went out of use, and the north wall was built here for the first time, accommodating the growing city.
A bit further, the wall makes an inward curve, following the rim of an ancient quarry which is known as Solomon's Quarries.
The entrance is across the bus station on Suleiman street, open all days. This vast cave was rediscovered in 1854, after it had been concealed by the Ottomans in the 16th century, but it was known in earlier times. Josephus Flavius' Royal Caverns mentioned in The Jewish War are probably this cave.
In later Jewish works it appears as Zedekiah's Grotto, and furnished an explanation about how Zedekiah managed to break through the Babylonian army lines which had encircled Jerusalem (II Kings 25:4-5, Jer. 52:7-8). Some believe it was the quarry for the stone blocks for the First Temple (I Kings 5:15-17). But it could also have been a quarry of Herod. But there is no dispute as to its antiquity.
Inside, there is not much to do, except to study the art of quarrying. Blocks were wedged loose after cutting a trench on three sides. The walls' niches still have black marks from the workers' oil-lamps. The best kind of stone and most sought after was white limestone, called meleke. This was ideal because it is easy to cut but it withstands erosion.
Damascus Gate
In Hebrew it is called Shechem Gate, because from here the road leads to Shechem or Nablus, and ultimately to Damascus. It represents the finest example of Ottoman architecture in Israel. It is the only one that has been excavated to study earlier gates.

Snow at the Damascus Gate
The first was built by Herod Antipas, later followed by a monumental entrance to Aelia Capitolina, built by the emperor Hadrian. Its basic design resembles the current one and consisted of a semicircular plaza from which sprang the two main roads of the city. It had one arched gate and two pedestrian entrances on the sides.
The excavation area can be reached from the gate's right, where modern stairs lead down. The first space is the Crusader Chapel of St Abraham, whose entrance is straight ahead. Passing this we stand on the medieval street, whose kerbstones are still visible. Steps lead to a Arabic cistern, whose collapse makes Hadrian's gate visible: the tower and pedestrian entrance are on the right.
The tower is open on weekdays and Fridays before the Shabbath. Visitors can enter the guardroom and climb to the rampart or stroll over the Hadrianic plaza. In the exhibition of maps of Jerusalem there is also a holograph of a tall column with a statue of Hadrian. Many believe that this statue stood in the centre of the plaza. Possibly the Arabic name of Damascus Gate, Bab el-Amud, the Gate of the Column, derives from this. Indeed, some huge Roman memorial columns are located on Nablus Road, a few hundred meters to the north, and a head of Hadrian was found nearby.
Hadrian's first gate remained in use until the 5thcentury. But in later centuries debris filled up the pedestrian entrances and the central entrance was raised. After that, the medieval gate used to be a short walk outside the present gate. It was flanked by two towers and connected with a road to where the bridge is now.
New Gate
This was not one of Suleiman's Gates, as its name and form indicate. It was built in 1887 by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II to furnish access to the new northern suburbs outside the wall. This gate was also blocked by the Jordanians between 1948-67.

To the west of the gate there is a small park. Inside it the base of a large tower is visible. This is called in Arabic Qasr Jalus or Goliath's Castle, after the popular legend that David killed the giant nearby (according to the Bible, this happened in southern Judea). The tower itself dates to medieval times and is constructed of Herodian blocks.

The City of David
by Jacqueline Schaalje
Many legends are attached to the City of David. The city is the historical site of King David's palace. The narrow ridge, located south-east in the Old City, with the Kidron Valley to its east, is also the oldest part of Jerusalem. The city spread westwards to its current location only after the death of King Solomon.
Jerusalem is first mentioned in Egyptian texts in the 20th century BCE. It was then ruled by a Canaanite people, the Jesubites. Archeologists have found old Canaanite dwellings in the City of David that go back to the 3rd millennium BCE.
According to Joshua 10, Adonitzedek, the Jebusite king of Jerusalem was defeated by the Israelite warrior. But Joshua omitted to conquer the city and it continued as a Jesubite town. Some historians say because Jerusalem was such a small town that it wasn't worth the trouble.
However, when King David was looking for a fit place to build his new capital, he saw its potential. The ridge had its own water resource, the Gihon spring in the Kidron Valley, and the steep valleys on three sides made a natural defense. Moreover, it was unclaimed by any Israelite tribe and thereby clear of the danger of civil strife. Its location was on the border of Judah and northern Israel. The fact that the city was already inhabited, did not trouble David.
Historians still do not know how David took the city, by an organized siege or by lucky stealth. II Samuel 5:6-16 and I Chronicles 11:1-9 tell the story, in which the impression is raised that David's men, Joab first, crept through the city's water system. This may have been Warren's Shaft, called after its 19thcentury English discoverer. But, in a modern simulation exercise, it was discovered that this channel could only be climbed with the assistance of mountaineering gear!
the city of david
Working in the City of David
Nor is it known what happened to the original inhabitants. It could be that the Jebusites continued living in Jerusalem, after their initial hostility. This is suggested by the story towards the end of David's life where he buys the threshing floor from his Jebusite subject Arauna (II Samuel 24:18 a.f.) for 50 shekels, so he could erect an altar on it. This place was Mount Moriah (Temple Mount), the same mountain top on which Abraham brought his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.
As soon as David settled in Jerusalem, he built a palace of wood (the famous Lebanese cedar) and stone (II Samuel 5:11), executed by architects dispatched by the friendly king of Tyre. The palace lay on the crest of the city while the houses stretched down the slope. This enabled David to see Batsheva bathing from the roof of his palace (II Samuel 11:2).
After David's death the city of David lost its prominence. As the number of inhabitants waxed, the city was extended to the west. King Solomon chose to build on the site for the Temple since a promise David had already made ( see II Samuel 7) on the Temple Mount, and he erected his palace adjacent to it.
The city of David continued being a part of Jerusalem and an Iron Age wall was built round it. During the Babylonian conquest of the City of David was fiercely defended (586/7 BCE), which is illustrated by the archaeological finds. According to II Kings 25:9, the Babylonians "burnt the Temple, the Royal Temple and all the houses of Jerusalem."
In later centuries, after the Return from Babylon, the Jewish population had dwindled enough to fit into the City of David again. Their governor Nehemiah got authority from the Persians to rebuild a wall around it (Nehemiah 3:1-32). The population grew during the Hasmonean kings in the second century BCE; they extended Jerusalem again to the west and encompassed the City of David into it. After the Byzantine period apparently the City of David stopped being a part of Jerusalem. Later the Arab village Silwan nibbled at its slope.

The best view on the City of David is from the Mount of Olives, from the 'Maison d'Abraham.' The City of David is inaccessible by car. Two footpaths lead to down, one from the parking lot on the north-west, outside Dung Gate to the Old City. The second path leaves from the Temple Mount's south-east corner.
The excavation area on the north shows the acropolis from the time of King David. From the north the site is approached by a stepped ramp, or glacis, built by David shortly after he conquered the city. Its purpose was to defend it and also to create a base for his palace. The two holes in the middle of the ramp may have been drains.
This was also the site of the Jebusite palace. But only the thin Jebusite sustaining walls, running west-east, are still standing. The space in between was filled in with rubble, thus creating a base for the palace on top of it.
In between the ramp and the Jebusite walls, the remains of buildings are not of David's palace, but later Israelite houses. They were destroyed during the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. The most northern dwelling is called the burnt room (with an outside staircase). Inside numerous arrow heads were found in the charred debris.
The house in the middle is the house of Ahiel, called after a pottery shard with this name on it. This typical Israelite house has four rooms and was partly dug into the glacis. There are two stumps of columns which supported the roof. The outside stairs would have led to the roof. On the right (north) is a small room with a 2 m deep pit and a stone with a hole placed above it; presumably a toilet.
the city of david
Working in the City of David
On the east is the bullae house, so called because 50 stamps with ancient Hebrew lettering were discovered. They were made of clay and were used to lock a papyrus roll. Each seal bears a personal name. Two of them are biblical: Gemaryahu son of Shafan, a scribe at the court of King Jehoiakim, who reigned in Jerusalem during the Babylonian attack (Jeremiah 36:10), and Azaryahu son of Hilkiyahu, a member of the family of high priests who served in the Temple (1 Chronicles 9:10). Because the seals were found in an ash layer, they were preserved.
The wall of Nehemia, the first one to be built on top of the hill, has not been found, but archeologists believe that it lies under the thick Hasmonean wall, to the west of the acropolis. To the north and south of the acropolis are Hasmonean towers.
Jerusalem's waterways
From the acropolis the path goes down to Warren's Shaft. This is a tunnel leading to the Gihon Spring. Not meant for climbing down - the steps are modern - water was hailed by a bucket on a rope down to the spring-fed pool. The tunnel is natural: made by a natural fissure in the rock, it was enlarged by the Jebusites. The shaft gave them ideal water access in case of sieges. The entrance to the tunnel was within the Jebusite city wall which was lower down on the hill.
A long way down in the tunnel there is a hole on the left, which gives access to Jerusalem's oldest walls. The outer one is the Jebusite wall dated to the 18th century BCE. It has very big rough stones and is exposed 40 meters. In peacetime there would have been a gate to the Gihon spring just outside of the wall.
The second wall is Israelite from the 8thcentury BCE. It served until the Babylonian invasion and can be followed 100 meters to the south. In some places there are houses which were destroyed by the Babylonians. The inner wall is a modern retaining wall.
The Gihon Spring ('gihon' means gushing) is perennial but trickles slowly and could not support the growing population of Solomon's capital. That's why he built another tunnel along the bottom of the hill from the spring to Siloam's Pool. It can be seen more south in the city of David in the excavation of the Hasmonean tower. The tunnel was sometimes pierced to let water irrigate the King's Garden in the Kidron Valley (II Kings 25:4).
Later King Hezekiah (727-698 BCE) realized Solomon's tunnel was not safe. The Assyrian king Sennacherib had already invaded Judah and Hezekiah expected a siege on Jerusalem. He dug another tunnel, after having cut off the water from the Gihon spring (because the spring was outside the city wall) (II Chronicles 32 and II Kings 20:20). Hezekiah's tunnel is connected to Warrens' Shaft. It can be entered from the Gihon Spring. Visiting is not dangerous but good footwear and a flashlight are indispensable. The water is usually at an adult's hip level.
Near the Pool of Siloam, 10 m from the entrance at its other end, an inscription by Hezekiah's engineer was found which is now in the Istanbul Museum. It describes that two teams of diggers began digging at each side and met in the center. Here is how they did it: "Behold the tunnel. This is the story of its cutting. While the miners swung their picks, one towards the other, and when there remained only 3 cubits to cut, the voices of one calling his fellow was heard - so there was a resonance in the rock coming from both north and south. So the day they broke through the miners struck, one against the other, pick against pick, and the water flowed from the spring towards the pool, 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the head of the miners was 100 cubits."
Note that King Hezekiah is not mentioned. But the inscription, in ancient Hebrew, was dated to his time.

Hezekiah's tunnel is curvy and measures 538 meters. It ended in a large pool called Birket al Hamra, which is today planted with fig trees. Next to it is the Pool of Siloam, but it is not in its original shape anymore. This was destroyed by the Romans in the First Jewish War, who "burnt the whole place as far as Siloam (Josephus Flavius, War 6:363)." The current rectangular was built in the 19thcentury. The water was said to be healing, and this inspired building a church and later a mosque.

From the southern end of the Iron Age wall one can climb to two large shafts. These are believed to be the burial tombs of the kings of Judah. In one recent book a historian believes that the (lost) tomb of David is to be found here, including many treasures which lie deeply buried. In reality, nothing has been found so far. The Bible does say that David was buried in the City of David (I Kings 2:10). The rock was worked as a quarry in ancient times, which is clearly visible. The burial shafts are indeed graves but compared to the tombs in the Kidron Valley they don't look royal.

Special: The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
by Jacqueline Schaalje
A Fourth Mosque on the Temple Mount?

During the last weeks there are renewed construction activities on the Temple Mount. In Israel there is a feeling that control over the Mount is lost. There are rumors about the digging of a water sewer, a mysterious white building and a fourth mosque.
Mysterious New Building
Civil servant-archaeologist

Jon Seligman, district archaeologist of Jerusalem with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), sits grimly in his office one mile away from Jerusalem's Old City and the location of the Temple Mount. In his rather worn-out-looking study that is full of folders, dusty books and rolled architectural papers on a chaos of triplex tables, Seligman relates that he cannot execute his function anymore since the Intifada broke out in autumn last year.
Dressed in a cozy woolen sweater Seligman looks like a once enthusiastic teacher who has found out that his students are not interested in his subject. His voice sounds disappointed and a bit weary when he concludes that his work has been taken from him in a theoretical and practical sense.
Already since 1996, says Seligman, while he sits down at a desk and his hands fold a origami cap from a colored sheet, his task has been very difficult. Starting from that year archaeologists - any archaeologist, whether he is from the IAA or not - are not allowed to inspect the Temple Mount.
The Waqf, the religious Muslim endowment that rules the Temple Mount, decided to banish archaeological supervision after the 'Tunnel Riots' in September 1996, during the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. These riots were about the opening of a tunnel along the Temple Complex' Western Wall, to Muslim Quarter. During the fierce fight around 70 Palestinians were killed and 17 Israeli soldiers.
Since 1996 the function of the Temple Mount archaeologist, Seligman's job, is restricted to looking round and reporting his observations to the relevant authorities.
And that is exactly what Seligman did, from the moment he stepped in his function, 14 months ago. But then came the Intifada.
Since the Intifada II broke out last fall, admittance to the Temple Mount has been denied to him altogether. In the first place by the Waqf. After that also by the Israeli police who advises against a visit to the Temple Mount to non-Muslims.
It seems impolite to ask what Seligman hangs around for in his office the whole day, as he is not 'working.' Besides, he looks too serious and responsible. Every ten minutes he has to answer his mobile phone, an old-fashioned one, that does not play melodies but just beeps emphatically.
"I am not resigned," he answers after he has lain down his telephone and with his weary face ponders about his position. Quickly and pointedly he clarifies that he was hired in his function to preserve the antiquities on the Temple Mount. If any digging has to take place at all, he has to be present. To make sure nothing of value is thrown away. To make sure that no ancient wall is broken through.
Ancient Stones in Rubble Pile

Describing and photographing of the constructions is of crucial importance for an archaeologist. But since he cannot perform surveillance on the Temple Mount a lot of things have happened of which he does not have a photo or a report.
Seligman explains the archaeologist's principle once more and moves his origami cap close to a perforator. "It's like this," he says, "as an archaeologist I can interpret these two things as long as they are brought together." After that he brings the cap at a distance from the perforator. "And now the artifact," with which he means the cap, "had been removed from its context. It is worth next to nothing. To an archaeologist, that is." He smiles.
To demonstrate this he mentions some artifacts that have been found in the rubble that the Waqf excavated during some of their dig and construction sessions. The rubble had been dumped by tractors into the Kidron valley (the wadi on the east side of the Temple Mount). Most antiquities consisted of glass fragments, stone objects and pottery shards from different periods, but there were two really significant finds among them. They are stored in IAA's depot in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.
Rubble Pile on the Temple Mount

The first artifact is a silver ring from the Crusader period, the second is a cut stone that according to some specialists could be a part of a lintel from a Temple gate from the time of Herod (until 4 BCE).
According to Seligman we should not be too excited about the stone. It is still being studied. Both finds are still unpublished, this we can expect in the coming months in the IAA's newspaper, 'Atikot (Antiquities).'

Political digging

Digging on the Temple Mount is forbidden. Israel introduced the prohibition to spare 'Muslim sensitivities' after the infamous Tunnnel Riots of 1996, in other words at the same time that the Waqf decided to close off the Mount for supervision by Israeli archaeologists.
In the years before that, after 1967 and Israel's annexation of the Old City, there were regular excavations by Israeli archaeologists in and around the Temple Mount. The aims were without exception scientific. For instance one looked for remains of the time of King Herod, and older periods, for example that of the Hasmonean kings (second and first century BCE).
At the Temple Mount's south wall digging took place to uncover the Arabic Ummayad palaces and Crusader remains. This last area borders on the El Aqsa mosque. The Muslim administration also added some activities of their own, especially around the El Aqsa. Arguments about the excavations occured, the Muslims complained about the danger of collapse and cracks in the walls. The disputes were in general solved peacefully.
But Seligman's outlook on the current situation on the Temple Mount is more bleak. Though he has not completely lost the contact with his Muslim colleagues, they do not discuss the Temple Mount anymore. His latest visit to the Temple Mount was in September 2000, just before the Intifada.
Seligman: "Listen, I cannot at my own initiative order the police to stop the constructions. I myself cannot even enter the Temple Mount anymore. It has become a political issue, they eventually have to make the decision to take the matter in hand." But in the past the government has not interfered, even though intervention would have been legally possible.
What does he expect from Ariel Sharon, the new minister-president, who is known as a hard-liner and who is also the one who indirectly unleashed the Intifada by his visit to the Temple Mount last fall? Since he took office he closed the city Ramallah in the Westbank. To blockade the Temple Mount should be an easy task for him.
"Once more," warns Seligman, "I do not answer political questions. You know why. Politics is not my profession. What I expect from Sharon: nothing. All governments that I have experienced are the same: Netanyahu and Barak. I presume that Sharon will not be an exception."
Seligman does not want to confirm the real construction works on the Temple Mount. His superiors have instructed a policy not to talk about these matters. Whether they are building a fourth mosque, Seligman does not know. Although he receives reports from the Israeli police who are controlling the Temple Mount, they fall short as archaeological accounts. Seligman does not know therefore whether the pavement on the Temple Mount has been stretched to the eastern wall, although this has been officially confirmed by the Ministry of Public Security. In any case there is no evidence of a tunnel or sewer that would have dug between the Dome of the Rock mosque and the El Aqsa mosque in mid January, as has been reported by several media in Israel and the United States.
"There is no tunnel on the Temple Mount," claims Seligman. "That is nonsense."

Waqf: not home

In an attempt to hear a response from the Muslim administrators, we call Waqf and the head of the Waqf in Jerusalem, Adjan Husseini, at all possible office hours: mornings, afternoons and at night. Husseinis's mobile phis sometimes on, sometimes off, but he is never engaged. Messages are not answered.
Due to the current situation in the Palestinian territories it does not have to be inferred immediately that the Waqf is in hiding or that they do not wish to answer the telephone. Because of the roadblocks in Palestinian areas it is indeed hard to reach offices. In the case of Husseini's mobile he may have started a contract with another phone company.

The activist-archaeologist

Dr. Eilat Mazar, from the archaeology department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a member of the 'Committee against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount.' Her dainty, rather tense voice seems to belie that she has consented to speak on a quiet evening by telephone.
She jumps into our subject: the alarming damage to antiquities on the Temple Mount.
In contrast to Jon Seligman of the IAA she is convinced that there is a tunnel on the Temple Mount, or to be more correct: a 40 centimeter deep trench that connects a water sewer between the Dome of the Rock mosque and the El Aqsa mosque.
Ancient Stones from ? in Rubble Heap

Like Seligman she is forbidden entrance to the Temple; how then does she get her information? "By pictures made from the air," answers Mazar sturdily. They are being made by helicopter once per week or every two weeks, depending on the necessity. "It is very expensive," says Mazar, again her voice sounds unmistakably proud.
Does she have pictures of the sewer, can they be seen on the aerial pictures? "I have material that prove that there is a sewer. But as I am not allowed to visit the Temple Mount, I cannot show it now. But if I were allowed to enter the Temple Mount, I could indicate the sewer."
How does she get the photos: "From different corners and different sources."
Could she show us the photos too, perhaps: "They are secret."
The lobby group of which Mazar is a member was established last year. Subscribers are a colorful assembly of renowned archaeologists, ex-mayors of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, writers Amos Oz en A.B. Yehoshua, lawyers and former Mossad chiefs. Their aim is to attract the attention of the political arena.
Other resources seem to be exhausted. From the middle of the eighties the 'Temple Mount Faithful', another indefatigable association, undertook frequent legal proceedings against the construction and the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount by the Waqf and against the laxity of the Israeli government to avoid these. But in 1993 the Supreme Court decided that they could not make a decision. The Waqf was found guilty of 35 transgressions, but due to the sensitivity of the case it was referred to the national government to undertake further proceedings. The expectation was expressed that the Waqf would not break the rules again, but they were already being broken again at the moment of the verdict.
Tractor works on Temple Mount

Israel is in a difficult predicament concerning the Temple Mount. After it had conquered Jerusalem's Old City in 1967 and became sovereign over the Temple Mount, it decided not to change the 'Status Quo'. This consists of status about Israel's Holy Places dating from the Ottoman era. Later regimes have respected it, the English Mandate as well as Jordan, that ruled East-Jerusalem and the Old City until 1967.
The Status Quo says that Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, but admittance is free for everyone. Further it decides that the Waqf administrates the Temple Mount and its mosque.
Israel added some rules of its own. Israeli police, in practice often Islamic policemen, together with the Waqf, is responsible for the site's security. Archaelogists of the IAA hold surveillance over the antiquities on the Temple Mount.
In addition, the general laws of Israel and the Municipality of Jerusalem are applicable, among which the Planning and Building Law and criminal law, which respectively consider building without permission and vandalism as punishable.
Mazar: "The Waqf obtained a permission for small maintenance activities from the Barak government. But since last year, and especially in the last months, the constructions continue to go beyond the original permits."
At the end of 1999 larger projects were embarked on with the building of an entrance to the Marawani mosque, the third mosque on the Temple Mount. It is located in the only existing construction from the time of Herod, the 'Solomon's Stables.' erHH They are not the real stables of Solomon, but they were interpreted so by the Crusaders who discovered the space in the Middle Ages and set it up as stables for horses. Solomon's Stables lie under the El Aqsa mosque, which was built later. To open the Solomon's Stables stairs and an entrance were needed.
The Waqf presented a request to build 6 entrances. The Barak government gave permission for two entrances, and that only as emergency exits. But last year they had become main entrances after all.
In front of the entrances stairs were constructed that led from the plaza on the Temple Mount. In order to build these a few tons of archaeologically rich rubble was removed. Observers counted 70 tractors leaving the Temple Mount last December, tells Mazar. A drill was used in order to remove stones. The rubble was dumped on municipal refuse dumps, from where it could not possibly be retrieved, and into the Kidron valley.
East Wall Reconstructin

Over the last weeks, again work has been done on the plaza on the Temple Mount. The pavement is being extended as far as the 'Golden Gate' in the eastern wall. In the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount a small white building has appeared, according to Mazar possibly a building shed.
Further excavations are taking place in the construction next to and north of the new Marawani mosque, possibly the location for yet another mosque. Here exists an underground hall which has never been inspected by archaeologists. According to Mazar the Waqf plans to pave the whole area between the current mosques and then cover it with a roof, resulting in a huge mosque with Mekka-like proportions. Has Mazar seen signs already of a roof on the aerial photos? Mazar: "No." And of the white building? Mazar: "Of the white building, yes."
At this moment there is another indictment in the court of justice, again by the persistent Temple Mount Faithful. Does Mazar expect anything from this?
"Of course," she says decidedly. "We cannot tolerate the situation on the Temple Mount. If this would happen on the Acropolis or in the Colosseum the world would be up in arms. A few days ago there was a fuss over the destruction of antiquities in Afghanistan by the Taliban. We are talking about one of most important locations in world history."
The Waqf has taken justice in its own hands. With a somewhat strong metaphor she says: "It is like a neighbourhood that has embarked upon criminal activities, stealing and destroying, and that once not has been warned, falls into greater evil. The situation on the Temple Mount resembles anarchy."
Asked whether she speaks with Muslim colleagues, she answers: "What for? If they behave like this?"
What does she propose to do concretely? Mazar: "It is up to the politicians to decide." Let us put it this way: does she have advice for Sharon? Mazar: "First the tractors have to be stopped from entering the Temple Mount. This is easy to execute as there is only one gate broad enough to let greater material pass. The use of a drill has to be forbidden."
But will the Waqf then not continue to work with buckets? Mazar: "Presumably." And? "It will be slower."
And what if the Waqf simply has other plans and does not plan to cooperate? Mazar remains cheerful: "Damaging antiquities is forbidden and has to be avoided. It does not matter of whom the antiquities are or from which era or which religion has erected them."

Letter from the Waqf

Again we try to call the Waqf fa commentary, and other Muslim experts at the Palestinian universities. It is not easy to find someone, several people decline cooperation. The Waqf does not answer the telephone.
On the Internet we find a letter by Adnan Husseini, head of the Waqf, froJuly 2000. The statement is still very interesting. It is a reaction to the American archaeology professor Hershel Shanks, who had written that the Waqf is damaging antiquities on the Temple Mount..
Husseini writes that the Waqf does not violate antiquities. Their activity is the removing of "dirt", that has been examined by Palestinian archaeologists of the University of Al-Quds and the chairman of the Department of Antiquities at the Waqf. "They have examined samples of the excavated dirt and found no structures, artifacts or archaeological remains from any era."
The allegations about destruction finds Husseini "ludicrous." Israel is guilty of the destruction to antiquities. Since the annexation of the Old City in 1967, Israeli authorities have taken numerous unilateral actions that disregard Muslim sensibilities. He mentions the destruction of the Maghrebi quarter from the 12thcentury that bordered on the Western Wall and made place for the 'Western Wall Plaza", and the use of bulldozers to excavate the Ummayad palaces.
Husseini does not deny that there are rather far-reaching construction activities on the Temple Mount. The reason is that there is little space on the Mount with a view to the thousands of pilgrims that will be able to visit the Temple Mount after the peace has been signed between Israel and the Palestinians.
This sounds a bit far away now, but Husseini wrote this at the pinnacle of the expectations towards a final peace accord, a few months before the Intifada.
Husseini ends his letter with a political admonition. He shoves the allegations about the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount from the table: "[the] unfounded accusations, combined with Israel's track record of heavy-handed unilateralist [sic] in Jerusalem, demonstrates all too clearly why Palestinian negotiators have insisted that Israeli end its occupation of this sacred city."

The civil servant-politician

Ami Gluska is head of a newly established inter-ministerial committee that studies the issues around the Temple Mount. Gluska reports to the Minister of Public Security, the newly installed Uzi Landau, a hard-liner of the Likud party. Last week the minister spoke with premier Sharon and with President Moshe Katsav about the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount. A few days after that Education Minister Limor Livnat spoke out for action against the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount.
Gluska does not readily answer to journalists. Only during a second conversation, after a detour via police speakers that took two days to review a list with questions, we are back with Gluska who is now ready to disclose more than an undeep babble.
Gluska's voice rasps dryly as of the proverbial official that tries to make exciting things sound as boring as possible. That is understandable as the Temple Mount is a subject about which a little controversy can be the fuse leading to a combustion. For a similar reason - to not disturb the peace process - the Barak government has not sounded a whistle at the Waqf's occasional placing of sandbags on the Temple Mount.
According to Gluska there is nothing concrete on the political table. He has transmitted his recommendations to the government, but it is yet too new and has not formed an opinion yet.
He is one of the few Israelis who still enters the Temple Mount, for instance, last week during a secret visit, that was not so secret after all, as it was reported in the newspaper the next day.
He describes the activities on the Temple Mount as not worse than before. They are the 'finishing touch' to the earlier construction of stairs and pavement that is being extended to the eastern wall. There is no sign of a fourth mosque, nor of a trench that has been dug. All excavations are restricted, according to Gluska, who has not received archaeological training, to the upper Muslim layers of the Temple Mount.
To the suggestion to close the Temple Mount for tractors he reacts vaguely: "It does not come into question to accuse the police of negligence that they do not control the gate." In other words, the command to close the Temple Mount can only by order of the government.

Action at last…

Last Wednesday Israeli radio reported a row between the Knesset members Abdel Malik Dehamshe of the United Arab List and Eliezer Cohen of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu ('Israel our Home') about the progress of the excavations on the Temple Mount that are done by the Waqf. Archaeologists had uttered suspicions about the building of a fourth mosque. Dehamshe claimed that the Temple Mount is completely Islamic. He was removed from the session when he refused to keep to the speaking time.

The case that was originally indicted by the Temple Mount Faithful is being treated by the High Court of Justice. A verdict is expected in the coming weeks.

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