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The Archeological Threat

14 Febuary 2007

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The Arab/Moslem world is threatening mass violence in response to Israel’s very limited archeological dig by the Mugrabi Gate linking the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. The ramp needs to be replaced by a more permanent structure with its infrastructure reaching down to a solid rock base level. Underneath the present bridge are archeological remains from the Second Temple period of two thousand years ago, hence a dig to save those remains are in progress and then a safer more sturdy bridge will be built. And yes, the Jews will be involved in a venture where they uncover more of their heritage and the bridge will be built over the archeological finds. The area in question separates the Western Wall to the north and the Ophel Archeological Gardens to the south.

The Moslem world led by Raad Salah, leader of the northern faction of the Islamic Front in Israel and one who demands the immediate destruction of the Jewish State (which he prays for every day) claims that the government is embarking on a policy of destruction of the Temple Mount (or Noble Sanctuary as it is known in Arabic) Moslem holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa Mosque. Nothing could be further from the truth as the dig is west of the Temple Mount. This noise is reminiscent of the Yasir Arafat instigated riots of September 1996 when Israel opened the Western Wall Tunnels door in the Moslem Quarter. Then too, the Palestinians and Islamists screamed about the Temple Mount “desecrations” which never were.

The Israeli Arab secular leadership is well aware of the brazen lies spread by the Islamists and will not take the same line since everyone can see the excavation. So they speak of the illegality of “the Israeli occupation changing the status quo in the Old City” or anywhere across the “border” in order to inflame international opinion and especially the Europeans. They twist the truth in their hypocrisy. First of all the dig and ramp (whether replaced or not) are in the rebuilt Jewish Quarter (after the 1967 War) bordering on the Temple Mount but not in it. The Quarter was a wreck after the Jordanians blew up over 50 synagogues and yeshivas in a bout of wanton destruction after its capture in the spring of 1948. In the mid-1960s Amman planned urban renewal for the Jewish Quarter which called for plowing it down, rebuilding and annexing it the Moslem Quarter. No one recalls Israeli Arab members of Knesset such as Mohammed Barakeh, Azmi Bashara or any one else condemning such a change of status in Jerusalem’s Old City from 1948 – 67.

Most deceiving and worse yet is the fact that the Armistice Line with Jordan which ran through Jerusalem leaving the Old City entirely in Hashemite hands was never a recognized border as made clear in the April 3, 1949 agreement. When Jordan attacked Israeli West Jerusalem in 1967 no one in the Arab world understood the attack to be a violation of an international border. Furthermore, only Britain and Pakistan recognized Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Old City.

The Jewish Quarter is being dug and rebuilt for almost 40 years and no doubt the Arab/Moslem world has a problem. The more we dig the more we discover our Jewish roots and ties to Jerusalem. Religious Jews already believe as a matter of lifestyle but secular Israelis/Jews are always seeking “proofs” to verify ancient scripts. Hence archeology is an integral part of the Jewish Israeli experience and a fundamental element in our rebuilding of the Jewish national element and memory. The more we dig, the stronger our identity and connection to the Land of Israel.

This is in direct clash with the Islamist belief that any region ever conquered by Moslems belongs to Islam in perpetuity or the secular Arab belief (myth?) that Arab control of the Middle East goes back 6,000 years and that all ancient peoples were Arabs and predated the Hebrew tribes. The truth is the Arab/Moslem invasion and conquest of the Land of Israel only took place in 638 CE, less than 1400 years ago.

More annoying to them is the tremendous credibility Israeli archeologists have world wide. We dig to find the truth and very often Crusader, Byzantine and early Arab period artifacts are uncovered and identified as such. Much of the Ophel Archeological Gardens are filled with structures from the Ummayad early Arab period as identified by Israeli archeologists. The Arab/Moslem reaction to the Mugrabi Gate dig is only a symptom since most likely we will only find more ruins from the destruction of the Second Temple similar to those adjacent to the dig.

The true objective is to halt all digs, especially in Jerusalem. The most important exploration is in David’s City (known as Silwan in Arabic) where over 100 Jewish families were expelled during the 1936-39 anti-Jewish riots. Today Eilat Mazar is excavating First Temple Jerusalem and possibly King David’s Palace. Nothing is sure at the moment but a clear verification of such a find will further solidify not only Jewish connections to the Land of Israel but recognition as such by others, whether they are Europeans or even open minded, thinking Moslem/Arabs.

Over the decades the Moslem/Arab world has constantly denied any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel or what they call “Palestine”. But every year archeologists prove them wrong. Because archeology strengthens the legitimacy of the State of Israel in the ancient homeland any excavation exposing a Jewish past becomes the enemy of the Moslem/Arab world.

This is only one brick in the wall of lies and de-legitimization of the Jewish State. Should this brick crumble other lies and slanders will be questioned and exposed. Such a scenario is truly a reason for alarm among Israel’s enemies.