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'Waqf Temple Mount excavation damaged archaeological relics'

reprinted from Haaretz
Iyar 13, 5771, May 17, 2011

by Nir Hasson

State Comptroller's report finds that the Muslim religious trust carried out works without permits and used heavy equipment damaging the Jerusalem holy site.

By Nir Hasson

In his annual report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found many shortcomings in the supervision of works carried out by the Waqf Muslim religious trust at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, saying that as a result, important archaeological artifacts had been damaged.

The majority of the State Comptrollers opinion is being kept confidential, as per the decision of the State Control Committee. According to the State Comptroller's report, this is "In order to guarantee state security and to prevent damaging Israel's international relations, in accordance with article 17 of the state comptroller's law."

The only section of the opinion that was made public was the conclusion, which says that supervision of the works that the Waqf carried out at the Temple Mount, particularly in the structure known as Solomon's Stables, was problematic. "These works were carried out without any coordination with the authorities that deal with legal enforcement in the Temple Mount, and without the required permits and licenses. The use of mechanical tools during some of the works regretfully damaged some of the archaeological evidence," the comptroller wrote.

"The preservation of antiquities at the Temple Mount, and the prevention of their destruction, is a public duty of the highest order," the conclusion also stated. "It is important to highlight that any work or excavation at the Temple Mount should be carried out in keeping with the character of the site, with the necessary licenses, and according to archeological standards. These include not using heavy tools in on-site works that require digging."

"The preservation of antiquities in the Temple Mount, which is a very holy place, is subject to the principle of preservation of our religious and cultural heritage, enables us to pass on the valuable legacy of this site to future generations." The report pointed out that in 1981 UNESCO's World Heritage Committee named Jerusalem's old city one of the sites on its 'world heritage list.' In 1982, they announced it was a 'heritage site at risk.'



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