"The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property" states the sign at the entrance to the Temple Mount. While Israel has had control of Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War, the Temple Mount has remained under the charge of the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority. Few Jews are permitted on the Temple Mount , and if the Muslims riot, Jews are kept away altogether.
In the meanwhile, bulldozers and trucks have been brought in to excavate the Temple Mount, and mounds of dirt and rock from the site have been abandoned at a local garbage site or dumped in to the stream bed at the bottom of the Kidron Valley. The Waqf has not merely engaged in indiscriminate, careless digging, but instead has a specific agenda of removing any remnant of other religions from the site.
"It has been going on for 12 years," Archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar warned last week. "They're digging there as if it's a construction site. There is a danger that the ground will collapse under thousands of Muslims. It endangers the safety of the people. There must be engineering control over this huge monument. Every stone on the Temple Mount may contain some of the most important antiquities in the world."
According to Israeli Antiquities Authority rules, no digging deeper than 60 cm (two feet) may be done on the Temple Mount, and never with mechanical equipment. Yet excavations with bulldozers go on, and in the name of peace, the Israeli authorities allow it. The Hebrew language newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, first broke the story, describing the reports' details that "[V]aluable remnants from the two Jewish Temples were thrown away to an improvised garbage dump by members of the Waqf," but worries about the possible social and political ramifications of the report have made the local authorities resistant to release it.
The Committee for the Prevention of Temple Mount Antiquities' Destruction, a concerned group of archaeologists and scholars, requested that an investigation be made of the ongoing excavations at the Temple Mount. Members of the State Comptroller's Office researched the matter and wrote a report, but the Knesset's State Control Committee has refused to release the report for "security reasons." According to Ynet News, a senior Shin Bet Security Service official did not agree with the Knesset's decision, saying, "I'm ashamed. This is akin to cheapening national security to the lowest point possible."
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan also disagreed that the report should be gagged, saying, "There is no connection whatsoever between the failure to publish the report and national security. As far as I know, both Mossad and Shin Bet said there is no reason publish the report…apparently there are other considerations here, pertaining to political motives."
Archeologists have combed through the piles of dirt pulled from the Temple Mount and have managed to scavenge important artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods, but their historical value has been seriously damaged by ripping them from their original locations.
"We know that the Waqf's goal is to unite all one the mosques, and unfortunately today it is far from being just an illusion," said Mazar. "We will definitely weep over this plan in the future."
In the meanwhile, archeologists are learning more about the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina that was built on the site of ancient Jerusalem after it was destroyed by the Romans. The straightest streets in the Old City of Jerusalem are the result of that Roman engineering.
The 2nd Temple was torn down brick by brick in A.D. 70 by the Romans, and eventually Jerusalem was plowed by the Emperor Hadrian, as Micah had prophesied. The Emperor Hadrian built the pagan city Aelia Capitolina in about A.D. 132 to replace Jerusalem, named after himself and the Roman god Jupiter Capitolinus. Jews were not permitted to enter its gates except on the 9th of Av to mourn. Hadrian gave Judea the new name Syria Palestina in honor of Israel's enemies the Philistines. It is a city that reminds Jews of the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem and of their banishment.
At least four major archeological excavations have been taking place in the Old City, unearthing Aelia Capitolina and studying its ancient life before new buildings are built on top. The discoveries show that even after the Second Temple was destroyed, the Temple Mount was used for Roman pagan worship.
In Luke 19, Jesus stops to weep over Jerusalem. He would soon enter through the Eastern Gate, across the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives. Gazing from that hilltop, Jesus grieved at what he knew would be the future of the beloved city.
Luke 19:41-44 says, "[H]e beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
Just a century years later, Jerusalem was plowed flat. Today, enemies of the Jews continue to cause destruction on the Temple Mount, seeking to eliminate even the rocks left to remind anybody that the Temple of the LORD once stood there. The East Gate was closed up by the Ottoman Turks in A.D. 1530 to prevent the Messiah from entering as prophesied (but in doing so they fulfilled Ezekiel 44:1-2). Mosques sit on the Temple Mount, and the ancient site of the Holy of Holies is trampled without regard.
Yet, there will be another time in the future when the LORD will once again be worshiped. At that time, the LORD says "...my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore," (Ezekiel 37:21-28).
It that time, God Himself will reign, as He tells Ezekiel in verse 43:7 saying, "… Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile."
Nor will anyone else.