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Expert opinion from archeologists

Eminent archeologists have expressed their views regarding the extent of the damage caused during the Waqf’s illegal works in the Temple Mount compound.
Prof. Ehud Netzer, Prof. Amos Kloner, Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Dr. Eilat Mazar have stated their opinion regarding the damage carried out up until February 2001, when the Temple Mount underground chambers were converted into a mosque and the huge crater north of Solomon’s Stables and the trench on the esplanade in the center of the Temple Mount were excavated. The archeologists especially emphasized the importance of research on the Temple Mount because no comprehensive study has yet been carried out there.

To read the expert opinions, click here

In 2001, the Waqf embarked on a project involving the cleaning of the cisterns on the Temple Mount with a view to bringing water to them from the Zamzam spring near Mecca. Some of the cisterns are filled with earth from thousands of years ago and consequently, their archeological value is incalculable. This earth must not be removed without enabling it to undergo a comprehensive and in-depth archeological examination. Prof. Amos Kloner wrote an expert opinion on the matter of the cisterns on the Temple Mount.

To read his expert opinion, click here

Prof. Ephraim Stern, Prof. Amihai Mazar and Prof. Roni Reich have expressed their view regarding the archeological value of the piles of earth found on the Temple Mount. The earth in these piles was removed from the various subterranean cavities, the huge crater excavated at the entrance to Solomon’s Stables and other construction work carried out on the Temple Mount. The professors expressed their opinion for the petition to the High Court of Justice to prohibit the removal of the earth from the Temple Mount compound.

To read their expert opinion, click here

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Expert opinion of security experts

After the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount was established, security experts who rejected the police claim that any attempt to prevent the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount could cause bloodshed joined the committee. These security experts explained that based on their experience in their service of Israel’s security services, and in other functions, the police should have no difficulty enforcing the law on the Temple Mount. A number of these security experts have expressed their opinion in affidavits submitted to the High Court of Justice along with the committee’s petitions.

To read Meir Dagan’s opinion, click here

To read Avigdor Kahalani’s opinion, click here

To read Yaakov Yaniv’s opinion, click here

 

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Petitions to the High Court of Justice regarding the Waqf construction on the Temple Mount

As a result of the wanton destruction of antiquities perpetrated in Solomon’s Stables, the Temple Mount Faithful movement petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the city of Jerusalem and the Attorney General to halt the construction at the site and prevent the site from being turned into a mosque. The High Court of Justice denied the petition and did not hand down instructions that the works be stopped or that those responsible for the illegal construction be brought to justice. The High Court of Justice ignored the fact that the construction carried out in Solomon’s Stables represents a violation of the Antiquities Law because from the outset, the work was carried out without obtaining the necessary permits from the Antiquities Authorities and the special ministerial committee, despite the fact that such permits are required by law.
Immediately afterwards an additional petition was submitted to the High Court of Justice that maintained that turning Solomon’s Stables into a mosque was a violation of the Protection of Holy Places Law (1967) and of Basic Law: Jerusalem – Capital of Israel (1980).
Three judges deliberated on the case. Two of them (Yitzhak Zamir and Aharon Barak) ruled that the construction did not constitute a violation of the Protection of Holy Places Law (1967) and Basic Law: Jerusalem – Capital of Israel (1980). Although the third judge (Eliezer Goldenberg) wrote that it was a violation of the law, his was a minority opinion. Despite this, Judge Goldenberg supported the dismissal of the petition with the claim that the court did not have the authority to rule on matters related to the Temple Mount and that decisions on that matter would have to be made by the relevant political rather than judicial authorities.

To read the High Court of Justice ruling, click here (7128/96)

A further petition on the subject was submitted about a year later, as a result of which the High Court of Justice fully admitted that the construction work on the Temple Mount was indeed being carried out without a permit, but that criminal proceedings should nevertheless not be pursued against the offenders, that the law should not be enforced, and that the court ought not to intervene in the violations of the law on the Temple Mount.
To read the court ruling, click here (9474/96)
The court’s fundamental position on the subject changed three years later, in a petition that concerned the excavation of the entrance crater into the new mosque in Solomon’s Stables (see below). In the ruling on this petition, the court ruled that it could intervene in violations of the law on the Temple Mount, although compelling reasons for that intervention would be needed to justify such intervention. Sadly, the court could not find sufficiently compelling reason to justify the court’s intervention and denied the petition.

To read the High Court of Justice ruling, click here (8666/99)

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Petitions by the committee to the High Court of Justice

HCJ 1933/01

In March 2001, a short time after the formation of the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, the committee petitioned the High Court of Justice with a request to instruct the law enforcement authorities to uphold the law on the Temple Mount, prevent damage to antiquities, make all work on the Temple Mount conditional on the receipt of all the proper permits, immediately halt all works and prevent the entry of vehicles and removal of antiquities from the Temple Mount.

In its petition, the committee presented the full scope of the Waqf works being carried out on the Temple Mount based on the information it had managed to collect from various sources. It was the committee that made public numerous activities carried out on the Temple Mount that were previously unknown to the public, thanks to the information collection system used by the committee since Israelis have been barred from entering the Temple Mount.

Attached to the petition were affidavits by security experts who explained that the Israel Police have it in their power to prevent the construction and demolition works, close the Temple Mount to vehicle traffic and stop the entry of construction materials and removal of antiquities from the Temple Mount.

Also attached to the petition were expert opinions from eminent archeologists (Prof. Ehud Netzer, Prof. Amos Kloner, Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Dr. Eilat Mazar), who underscored the importance of the Temple Mount to archeology and explained the enormity of the damage being caused to the ancient site.

Ultimately, at the recommendation of the court justices, the committee decided to withdraw its petition because of the change of government occurring at that time, and based on the understanding that the new government should be given some time to correct steps taken by the previous government.

HCJ 8172/04

In September 2004, the committee submitted yet another petition when it learned that the Antiquities Authority had allowed the Waqf to remove piles of earth filled with antiquities from the Temple Mount. Needless to say, the earth should be exactingly sifted through in order to prevent the loss of any further antiquities. The permission granted by the Antiquities Authority was completely opposed to the decision of the prime minister in June 2001 to forbid the removal of earth and archeological findings from the Temple Mount.

 To read the petition, click here

Attached to the petition were the expert opinions of professors of archeology who emphasized the enormous archeological value of the earth of the Temple Mount.

In wake of the petition, the state announced that it had decided to prohibit further removal of the earth. The parties agreed that if there was any intent to remove the earth, the Antiquities Authority would inform the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount thirty days in advance.
 

To read the ruling of the High Court of Justice on, click here

HCJ 7800/05

In August 2005, the committee petitioned the High Court of Justice regarding illegal burials being carried out inside the national park located at the foot of the walls of Jerusalem. The relevant area involves 2,000 square meters and is located outside the boundaries of the Muslim cemetery located along the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. The petition submitted by the committee joined yet another petition on the same matter submitted by Aryeh King about a year earlier.

The committee showed that although the area belonged to the city of Jerusalem, individuals were selling burial plots to all comers. The area already contained 15 burial plots that were in use, and all the other plots held empty burial cavities or displayed signs indicating the ownership of the plot.

In its petition, the committee asked the court to immediately forbid burial in the area of the national park, fence off the existing graves and destroy the empty burial structures, remove the signs indicating private ownership and to bring to trial anyone selling or digging burial plots, and anyone burying the deceased in them.

To read the petition, click here

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Meetings of Knesset committees

Thanks to the committee’s untiring efforts to rouse the public’s elected officials to act against the continued destruction of the antiquities on the Temple Mount, it succeeded in convening a number of Knesset committee sessions to discuss the subject. A summary of some of those sessions is presented here.

Session of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee in July 2001

Session of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee in November 2001

Knesset plenary session in August 2003

Session of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee in May 2004

Session of the Knesset State Audit Committee in October 2007

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List of papers on the destruction of the antiquities

Destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount in 1999-2000

Destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount in 2003

Destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount in 2004

Earth removal works up until August 2004

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