If there were a world record for cultural intolerance or archeological atrocities, the Taliban's destruction of 1,500-year-old rock-hewn Buddhas in Afghanistan would probably take the prize. While the global outcry against the Taliban was understandable and warranted, it is a mystery why the world has met with deafening silence the Moslem Wakf's continuing rampage on the Temple Mount.
Anyone see Buddha? The picture of the
gaping hole in the Afghanistan mountain where the
giant Buddha used to be is making the rounds all over
See? Our holy places are not the only targets for Islamic crazies. These guys are equal-opportunity fanatics; they hate all religious symbols other than their own. The word "pluralism," I guess, does not exist in the Koran. Any non-Islamic expression of faith is considered by Moslem fundamentalists as a foreign body grafted onto the authentic religious body of the planet.
And guess what - nobody cares! Sure, the UN and a few individual countries whimpered a little and made some vague threats, but then they shrugged their collective shoulders and went back to their own worlds. So before anyone fantasizes about the world community rising up as one to defend Jewish religious freedom or protect our access to holy sites, you better sober up. We are the only ones who care enough about our rights to actually do anything about it; the world at large just isn't interested.
Christians in Jerusalem:
Every Picture tells a Story
On March 21, Antiquities Authority director-general Shuka Dorfman confirmed what archeologists have been warning for months - that the Wakf's construction projects are damaging what is perhaps one of the most sensitive and significant archeological treasures on earth. As Dorfman told the Knesset Education Committee, "I can categorically state that there is archeological damage being done to antiquities on the Temple Mount." According to the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, the latest development is the introduction of a large stone cutter, of the type used in quarries, on the Mount. The Wakf, the Moslem religious trust, has been using the stone cutter to slice large ancient stones for secondary use in various building projects.
In a petition to the Supreme Court, the committee also charged the Wakf has been using hundreds of volunteer construction workers during the week and on weekends, indicating that the construction is not ceasing, but expanding on an urgent basis.
Over the past year, the Wakf has used heavy equipment to move thousands of tons of earth from below the surface of the Mount, earth that according to sound archeological practice should have been studied with a fine-tooth comb. Since October, the Wakf has continued to dig and build without even the insufficient observation that previously existed, let alone proper scientific documentation and procedures.
Israeli governments have for some time been deluding themselves that each Wakf project is the last, and that by allowing each to proceed the problem can be made to quietly go away. Israeli archeologists now believe that the mosque created within what is called Solomon's Stables and the monumental entrance to it are not the end, but the beginning of an effort to transform the platform's entire substructure into one large mosque.
The Wakf's frantic building project is Talibanist in nature, in that the Wakf completely denies any non-Moslem connection to the site where the First and Second Temples once stood. As an indication that this totalitarian mentality goes beyond the Wakf, MK Abdul Malik Dehamshe so persistently heckled the recent Knesset hearing with claims that the site was completely Islamic that he had to be removed from the room. Former US mediator Dennis Ross also reported that, at Camp David last year, Yasser Arafat denied any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
The surprise, however, is not that the Wakf will be the Wakf, but that Israel's new government seems as oblivious to the problem as its predecessor. Deputy Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, who as an MK bitterly criticized the Barak government for the blind eye it had turned to the Wakf's destructiveness, just told the Knesset to wait three months for a new policy to be developed.
Such stalling is as inexcusable as it is inexplicable. Two simple steps should have been taken the day the Sharon government took office: closing off the Temple Mount to all heavy equipment and lifting the press blockade.
It does not take a major policy review to determine that is insane for Israel to allow heavy equipment on the Temple Mount, while the Wakf refuses to allow any outside archeological supervision of its activities. By allowing trucks, bulldozers, and tractors to move freely in an out of the area, Israel has become complicitous in the Wakf's romp through the archeological equivalent of a china shop.
In previous decades, UNESCO, the UN body responsible for preservation of the irreplaceable elements of the global heritage, filed scathing reports on Israel's excavations just outside the Temple Mount. UNESCO's wrath was provoked despite the fact that Israel cooperated fully with UNESCO's archeologists and followed proper scientific procedure to the letter.
Now the Temple Mount itself is being dug up behind an archeological and press blackout. UNESCO should be crying bloody murder. If and when the international scientific and religious communities come to their senses, Israel, which claims sovereignty to the area, will not be able to shirk its responsibilities. What was the point of Ariel Sharon's September visit to the Temple Mount if, now that he is prime minister, he shows no interest in saving this ancient treasure from the Wakf's Talibanism?
©2001 - Jerusalem Post