A sidewalk gets damaged by snow. You repair it, right? Not if it’s in the Middle East.
In 2004, a sidewalk was damaged by snow and a minor earthquake. Unfortunately for this particular sidewalk, it happened to be in Jerusalem, at one of the gates to the Temple Mount
Sunday’s online issue of The Jordan Times takes up the story:
The Israeli government’s reasons for the new project seemed simple: The existing walkway partially collapsed in a 2004 snowstorm, it was unsafe and it had to be replaced.
Early this month, when archaeologists began a salvage dig outside the compound’s Magharebah Gate ahead of the walkway’s construction, the waqf said it had sovereignty over the ramp because it touched the compound and charged that Israel was harming an integral part of the holy site.
That was quickly followed by a more inflammatory charge: The dig was cover for another attempt to tunnel under the Islamic holy places and cause their collapse.
Israel claims that notified all relevant parties, including the waqf, before beginning construction. Muslim officials, however, said they were never consulted.
Adnan Husseini, the waqf’s director, told the Associated Press that there are “ongoing” Israeli attempts to undermine the mosques from below, and that he suspected Israeli archaeologists were currently tunnelling underneath the compound.
“We are against all of these excavations, because they threaten the future of the mosque,” Husseini said.
Husseini denies that Israel has any rightful claim on the compound, and has questioned the existence of any Jewish history there. A waqf booklet for tourists says the existence of the temples is supported by “no documented historical or archaeological evidence”.
Since the Magharebah Gate project started, there have been only limited clashes, including a scuffle between police and protesters Friday, and nobody has been seriously hurt.
But Israel has been condemned, reprimanded or warned by nearly every Muslim country. During a trip to Turkey this week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to a demand that a Turkish team be allowed to observe the construction work to help calm Muslim fears. Turkey is Israel’s closest Muslim ally.
Israel also began broadcasting live images of the work site on the Internet Thursday.
A live webcam is now playing real time images from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is viewable with Internet Explorer.
A Friday article in The Jordan Times gave more details about Arab reaction.Sunday’s Jordan Times details the level of interest within Jordan (link to saved articles): meetings with high level officials, demonstrations in Zarqa (the hometown of the deceased terrorist al-Zarkawi), and concerned statements from the “professional organizations”, which are considered to be Jordan’s religious extremists and the only opposistion to the government.
Here is a link to a BBC News artitcle giving a brief history of the Temple mount, its significance to the major religions, and a map of the area under repair.
An article in Haaretz details the internal politics surrounding the project.
Just to make things more interesting, a Byzantine mosaic has now been discovered at the site.