Until the recession hit, I was on a routine of leading a tour every December to Israel. I was last there December 2008 and it was my seventh trip. One of the benefits of going every year is seeing the changes and the new discoveries, especially in Jerusalem. And they have been coming fast this decade. In 2004 we saw the Pool of Siloam newly discovered (not the one they showed tourists for years). I think it was 2006 when Eilat Mazar declared that the newly uncovered structures in the City of David included David’s own palace. The pace of discovery has been quickening. Make of that fact what you will.
Two of the new developments in Jerusalem have been of particular interest to our group. The first is the Rabbinical Tunnel which leads along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount down on the level from Herod’s time, which means walking in a tunnel under the current city level. These tunnels have been open at least since 2004 when I started taking groups through them. You do not go under the Temple Mount, but under the city along the edge of the Western Wall. There is a spot which is considered the closest to the Holy of Holies. Orthodox Jewish women are praying there constantly. It is a better prayer location than the famous Western Wall plaza one always sees in pictures.
The other new development is much newer. In the last few years, they built a pedestrian bridge just to the right of the Western Wall plaza. To the right of the bridge, they have been excavating carefully and unearthing First and Second Temple artifacts along with items from later periods. Every time I have walked up that bridge I have looked over the side and wondered what treasures have been discovered. I would have enjoyed a career in archaeology.
Now, if the few sources I have seen are correct, there is a new and much larger development. Israel is building and archaeological park under the Western Wall plaza. The photo attached is from Arutz Sheva and they do not list a source.
The drawing cannot be perfectly accurate. I am wondering if the park will be completely underground and if the cutaway view here is intended to illustrate the layers and not as a literal view of the park. For one thing, this drawing eliminates the womens’ section of the plaza.
The lower level shown in the diagram will place worshippers at the level of the ancient city and apparently will be open to worshippers just as the current plaza on top has been since Israel took Jerusalem back in 1967. You can read a little about the park here at Arutz Sheva.
At the same time this new area at the Western Wall is being announced, work has just been completed in the Rabbinical Tunnels opening a new area called the Hall of Ages. While excavating this area, archaeologists found more artifacts from First and Second Temple eras. The newly opened section is so named because in it one can see building work from different eras in the Temple Mount’s history, including arches from different periods (I’m guessing Herodian, Byzantine, Crusader, and maybe some more recent Turkish work as well).
Ever Present Politics and Muslim Protests
In early October, some Muslim clerics issued statements to the press saying that Israel’s digging projects are destabilizing the Temple Mount and that this is being done on purpose so that an earthquake will destroy the Al Aqsa mosque. You can read more about the trouble at the Temple in October 2009 here and here.
The rioting and fear-mongering from the Muslim side amaze me (and not in a good way). It is a travesty that Israel has allowed the Temple Mount to become nothing but a Muslim worship center to begin with. The appeasement of Muslim interests on the Jerusalem Temple Mount is a scandal for the ages.
When Jordan controlled Jerusalem from 1948 until 1967, Jews were not allowed to come even to the Western Wall (which is beside the Temple Mount, not on it). In other words, under Muslim control there was no concern for sharing worship rights at the site.
Since the fateful decision (was it Moshe Dayan who was instrumental in deciding this?) to cede the Temple Mount to a Muslim authority after Israel recaptured the city in 1967, the Temple Mount has been run with no concern for Christian or Jewish access. Praying, bringing a Bible, or wearing a symbol of Christian or Jewish devotion is against the law on the Temple Mount.
And to make matters worse, Muslim excavation this decade has threatened the stability of the Temple Mount and has forever ruined the opportunity of archaeologists to study the dirt of the Temple Mount.
In 2004 and 2005 I remember the scaffolding on the south wall of the Temple Mount. It was there because the wall was bulging. Why was it bulging? Because irresponsible Muslim excavation was causing it to collapse while a new mosque was being built on the Mount. The Muslim authority not only handled the construction badly, but in no way coordinated with Israeli authorities. They simply dug as they wished and nearly brought their own holy site down in an avalanche of ancient stones.
And now some Muslim clerics are inciting trouble yet again. They claim Israel is digging under the Mount. It’s all an alleged conspiracy to cause the Mount to collapse. Oy!
Jerusalem in Bondage
The injustice to religious groups in Jerusalem should be apparent to the world. The case is very simple and straightforward.
Jerusalem is the Jewish city, the capitol from ancient times of everything Jewish.
And Jerusalem is the holiest place in the world for Christians.
And six and a half centuries later than Jesus died and rose in this city, the Muslims decided to make it a shrine for Islam.
If Islam has the smallest and latest claim to Jerusalem, why are all the worship rights and all the diplomatic concern amongst world governments on the side of Islam as the controllers of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount?
The answer is simple: violence.
Christian denominations will not throw molotovs or rocks at police to make the Temple Mount a Christian place of worship.
Orthodox Jews, known at times to resort to violence, will not start riots to retake the Temple Mount for Judaism.
So Israel and the world allow the party of violence to rule. Plain and simple.
What will happen to restore Jerusalem and begin the process of its future glory? How will events take shape? I do not know. But I do believe the foretelling of Jesus and of Israel’s prophets. Jerusalem will be a Temple again to the God of Israel. And Jesus will not return until the city calls on him, saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (see Matthew 23:37-39).