Eastern Temple Mount Wall May Collapse by Etgar Lefkovits

Note: G-d makes earthquakes.

The eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is in danger of immediate collapse because of damage caused by the February 11 earthquake, a classified government report issued this week concludes. The report, written by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has been distributed to senior ministers by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s military attache, Brig.-Gen. Yoav Galant, officials said Thursday.

The classified report, details of which were first published in Yediot Aharonot, says that the earthquake damaged the eastern wall of the Temple Mount to such an extent that sections of the wall are liable to cave in on the underground architectural support of the mount, known as Solomon’s Stables.

The Antiquities Authority refused to comment on the report.

But officials confirmed Thursday that the report has been sent to a number of government ministers including Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Ehud Olmert, Education Minister Limor Livnat, and Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky.

The report has also been forwarded to the heads of the Shin Bet, Mossad, and to Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky, and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.

All of the recipients have been asked to forward their recommendations on the matter to the prime minister ahead of a planned meeting on the issue, expected shortly.

The report includes several documents prepared by officials in the Antiquities Authority, who suggest that the area in question be declared off-limits until repairs are carried out at the site.

New cracks and movements in the already fragile 2,000-year-old wall were discerned by archeologists following the February earthquake, the report states.

The earthquake, which measured 5 on the Richter scale, did not cause any serious injuries or damage.

Wakf (Islamic Trust) director Adnan Husseini on Thursday said that the report over damage to the wall caused by the earthquake was “incorrect.” “We do not understand how such a report could be issued since there is no problem due to the earthquake,” he said.

The report comes as a team of Jordanian engineers continues to carry out repair work on a separate bulge on the southern wall of the Temple Mount, adjacent to Solomon’s Stables.

It was not clear Thursday if the Jordanians would be asked by Israel to repair the eastern wall as well.

In February, the head of the Jordanian team, Dr. Raief Najim, said that additional restoration work was needed in other areas, including the eastern wall.

Israeli archeologists say that the bulge on the southern wall was caused by the Wakf construction work at Solomon’s Stables over the last decade, while a Jordanian report states that it was the result of the natural flow of rainwater over the centuries.

Israel maintains overall security of the site, while the Wakf is charged with day-to-day maintenance at the compound.

In the late 1990s, the Wakf turned Solomon’s Stables into the largest mosque in the country, that can accommodate 30,000 worshipers. Its excavation caused extensive damage to antiquities at Judaism’s holiest site, which were unearthed and then heaped onto a garbage dump.

Israeli archeologists from the Antiquities Authority have not been carrying out routine supervision at the site for more than three years, despite the reopening of the ancient compound to non-Muslims last year, due to concern over renewed Palestinian violence at the site.

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