Ira Pasternack couldn’t believe his eyes. The tractor’s huge blade was lifted high up and then brought down with great force, shattering the ancient floors on Temple Mount. The large clods of earth exposed by the work were cast aside by the mustachioed driver. Yet even an amateur archeologist could spot the priceless remnants of Jewish, Christian and Muslim history being cast away.
A few hours earlier, on a steaming July day in 2007, Pasternack was sent to Temple Mount in his role as an Israel Antiquities Authority inspector, in order to supervise excavation works at the holy site, which in the past boasted two Jewish Temples. This marked the first such project at the site since the 1967 Six-Day War, as the area’s sensitivity could prompt a political and diplomatic flare-up, thereby discouraging any such work.
According to specific Antiquities Authority instructions, any digging at the site was not allowed to exceed 60 centimeters (roughly two feet) and was not to be undertaken using mechanical equipment. However, reports drafted by Pasternnack and other sources, exposed for the first time by Yedioth Ahronoth Friday, indicate that workers largely ignored the instructions.
Much of the work was done using a tractor, continued during the night with the help of a flashlight, reached deeper than the permit allowed for. Moreover, the clods of earth removed from the site, which apparently comprised valuable remnants from the two Jewish Temples, were thrown away to an improvised garbage dump by members of the Waqf (the administrative Muslim body in charge of Temple Mount.)
Mideastern affairs expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar says these acts are undertaken in the framework of an Arab practice known as “erasing the signs,” aimed at eliminating the remnants of any civilization that preceded Islam.
Members of the State Comptroller’s Office launched an investigation into the affair four years ago and drafted a report about it. However, the Knesset’s State Control Committee decided to impose a gag order on the report for “security reasons.”
However, Israeli intelligence officials told Yedioth Ahronoth there is no reason to prevent the report’s publication. A senior Shin Bet Security Service official said following the Committee’s session on the matter: “I’m ashamed. This is akin to cheapening national security to the lowest point possible.”
Conversations and interviews held with dozens of officials involved in drafting the State Comptroller’s secret report indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among the senior officials interested in shelving the document. Attorney Yisrael Caspi, who represents a group fighting the destruction on Temple Mount, says the PM is unequivocally responsible for the ongoing failure.
“We know with certainty that nothing happens on Temple Mount without the advance knowledge and permission of the Prime Minister’s Office and its head. All the criticism, all the negligence, all the failures, the entire cover-up and the helplessness in dealing with the matter – and therefore all the historical responsibility – are his.”
Caspi says Netanyahu does not want to be reminded of the “historical scandal” of handing over the holy site known in Judaism as Solomon’s Stables to the Waqf during the PM’s first term in office, in the 1990s. “This turned Solomon’s Stables, an amazing archeological site…into a place that Jews are not allowed to enter and into the largest mosque in the State of Israel,” he says.
In another disturbing case, a ministerial committee approved the use of two giant generators on Temple Mount. “At times you’re just stunned by the lack of wisdom in our conduct on Temple Mount,” Attorney Caspi says. “You can’t believe these things are happening. We are playing into our enemies’ hands and shooting ourselves in the foot, because these generators can provide enough electricity for half the city. Why are they needed?”
“Now, there is a regular supply of electricity to Temple Mount. The State of Israel has no interest whatsoever in allowing the Muslims the possibility to riot and barricade themselves there.”
Read it and weep. If you have the stomach for more, Israel Matzav has a longer and more detailed record of his postings over the years about the rejected reports of this shocking desecration of Judaism’s holiest site.
In a similar vein, it has taken American Jewish leaders to draw the attention of the government to the terrible lack of security for Jews visiting the Mount of Olives cemetery, the most ancient cemetery of the Jewish people.
American Jewish leaders called on the Knesset to tighten security at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem in the aftermath of a rock-throwing attack on one of the leaders and two Jewish congressmen.
During a hastily arranged emergency hearing of the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs on Monday, the American Jewish leaders expressed their concern for the ancient Jewish cemetery.
“The history of Har Hazeitim [the Mount of Olives] is the history of the Jewish people,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “If you want to keep Jerusalem united, you have to keep Har Hazeitim.”
… During a site visit to the cemetery last Friday, Hoenlein and U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both New York Democrats, narrowly escaped injury from an Arab stoning attack. During the visit, the delegation saw smashed headstones and graffiti throughout the historic site located on a hillside in eastern Jerusalem.
There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, where Jews have been buried since biblical times.
The craven attitude of our government is simply incomprehensible. Even the security establishment sees no impediment to Israel taking control and imposing security in both these holy sites. What is going on?