...Preparing to enter the Temple Mount, I wondered how genuine and stable this quiet really was...At 7 a.m., a group of very determined and sleepy tourists, mostly Israeli, gathered at one of the Kotel entrances. Some of the tourists came from as far as Tel Aviv to participate in a tour of the Temple Mount organized by Beit Shmuel. The guide, archeologist Tzahi Zweig, explained the meaning of the sign hanging right before the entrance to the site. "Orthodox Judaism forbids the approach to the Temple site, the holiest of the Jewish sites in the world, due to ritual impurity. Yet, all the Reform rabbis and some 'kippot srugot' [crocheted kippot, a reference to the national religious camp] now permit and even recommend visiting under special conditions - if a person has purified himself in a mikve and put on non-leather shoes."
...Jewish Israeli tourists are allowed to enter the site, yet any Jewish paraphernalia, like shirts with Psalms quotations or prayer books, are strictly forbidden. "People have actually been expelled from the Temple Mount as soon as the Wakf guards suspected they were about to conduct a prayer," said Zweig.
...While buying a newspaper in a small bookshop on Salah a-Din Street, I heard a commercial that has been running for quite some time on numerous Israeli radio stations calling on Jews to enter the Temple Mount and pray there during Hanukka...
...WHEN YOU first enter the compound, you are immediately overwhelmed by the two mosques - the massive, gray Al-Aksa, where thousands of people can pray simultaneously, and the beautiful, glowing Dome of the Rock. While Al-Aksa, which was built in 710, has been destroyed many times by earthquakes and has been totally rebuilt, the octagon-shaped Dome of the Rock has barely changed since it was constructed by Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik between 687 and 691. Once the initial awe has worn off, visitors start noticing the smaller, more delicate and sometimes almost invisible details of the compound.
The clear air of Jerusalem is filled with memories of great men of the past - King David, King Solomon, Herod. The clues are everywhere, but one can only guess what lies beneath the gardens and stone pavement, to which era the broken columns and fragments of marble belong.
...For more than 60 years, no archeological team has been allowed to perform any work at the Temple Mount. The piles of rubble lying on the outskirts of the compound hide pieces of ancient Lebanese cedars, fragments of marble, carved stones and ceramics - a pure archeological paradise. Unfortunately for archeologists around the globe, for now this paradise remains untouchable. The only digs that are permitted are around the compound.
...Coming out from the Chain Gate on the way back from the Temple Mount, we passed through Rehov Hagai. On the right side of the road, construction was being done. The work, financed by the American Jewish tycoon Irving Moskowitz, is designed to reconstruct the Ohel Yitzhak synagogue, which was built in 1917 and abandoned during the Arab riots of 1936. In 1948, the structure was destroyed by the Jordanians along with all the other synagogues in the Old City.
...Islamonline.com quoted Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, as saying that "the agreement with Cherna Moskowitz, the wife of Irving Moskowitz, has been already signed. The idea still needs approval from the Israeli government, security services and the Israel Antiquities Authority." Haaretz carried a similar report.
Replying to In Jerusalem's inquiry, Rabbi Rabinowitz denied the report, saying that the possibility of connecting the space with the Kotel tunnels was currently being explored. "At this stage we are still unsure that this plan is feasible, and there is certainly no agreement."
Daniel Luria from Ateret Cohanim, an organization supported by Moskowitz, also denied that the billionaire was involved in the plan. "Moskowitz is responsible for restoring the synagogue and building the museum. The dig beneath the structure is being conducted by the IAA, and if someone is interested in exploring whether it is possible and worthwhile to connect Ohel Yitzhak with the Kotel tunnels - [Moskowitz] is not involved."
Grand Mufti Hussein has slammed "building the synagogue and digging beneath Al-Aksa," claiming that Israel was breaking international law. In an interview with IJ he said that "the Palestinians refuse the building of any structure - synagogue, apartment house or any other building - on land that belongs to Islamic Wakf and that was occupied by the Israelis in 1967."
...The Temple Mount tour was over by midday. At that time, more people came to visit the holy sites - some to pray, some to take pictures, some to guard. Now the quiet seemed to be merely a thin outer layer of an otherwise turbulent interior of the Temple Mount.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Take a Temple Mount Tour
Excerpts from Ksenia Svetlova's tour report, "Mounting unrest":-