Destruction of antiquities 1995-2001

The destruction of the antiquities on the Temple Mount seriously worsened in June 1995, when supervisors of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) allowed the Waqf to create an opening on the northern edge of the passageway structure of the eastern Hulda Gate. The southern edge of the passageway structure has a narrow opening that connects it with Solomon’s Stables, and the aim was to prepare the entire complex for Muslim prayer, despite the fact that it had never served this purpose in the past. The permit granted by the IAA was in complete violation of Paragraph 29c of the that states that any change made to an ancient religious site must first receive a permit from a special ministerial committee. This ministerial committee was never convened, not even in this case, in which far-reaching structural changes were involved.

 The creation of the entrance laid the groundwork and enabled the Waqf to carry out extensive construction work and obliterate many of the antiquities in Solomon’s Stables. The Waqf’s success in seizing Solomon’s Stables emboldened it to continue to convert further parts of the Temple Mount into mosques.

From August to September 1996, large-scale construction work was carried out in the Solomon’s Stables subterranean chamber and the passageway in the east Hulda gate in order to convert them into a mosque. The work was done by volunteers led by Sheikh Rayadh Salah. The volunteers removed the ancient paving stones, dug up the earth underneath, laid a new floor and installed lighting. The new mosque was named the Marwani prayer area, and with a capacity of 10,000 worshippers in an area of about 5,000 square meters became the largest mosque in the State of Israel!

In November 1999, thanks to authorization received from the prime minister, a large bulldozer, dozens of trucks and tractors began extensive digging in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount compound to open the “emergency exit.” In just three days, a huge crater and a monumental entrance into Solomon’s Stables had been dug.

From March 1998 to December 1999, illegal works were carried out in the structure of the Double Gate, including excavation, the construction of concrete and plasterboard walls, the renovation and “cleaning” of the walls by sandblasting, which destroyed the stones’ ancient patina. The structure was converted into a mosque given the name “al-Aqsa al-Qadima’ [the early al-Aqsa,] notwithstanding the fact that it had never at any earlier time in the history of the Temple Mount compound ever served as a mosque.

 In late 2000, it was learned that the Muslims were removing earth from the huge underground arched chamber located between the Double Gate and the Triple Gate passageways. The chamber covers an area of more than 3,000 square meters and the Waqf plans to convert it into a new mosque too and connect it to the new mosque built in Solomon’s Stables. This represents the continuation of their plan to convert all the ancient structures in the Temple Mount compound into mosques and thereby abrogate their original historical and archeological character. The construction works to convert the structure into a mosque are almost completed.

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