Jul. 20, 2009
by Etgar Lefkovits
After a four-year legal struggle, the High Court of Justice has overseen an agreement whereby the state commits to develop a national park near the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, officials said Monday.
The agreement follows a petition against the state by the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, after years in which the site, which is defined as a national park, was being used for illegal Muslim burial.
The area in question abuts a Muslim cemetery.
Police had originally said that stopping the burials would lead to riots and bloodshed.
"The state is committed to its obligation to prevent the expansion of the cemetery and is working towards the implementation of the site as a national park," the High Court wrote in its decision, which was handed down Sunday.
The state also agreed that police will oversee the fencing of the area and its development as a national park.
The committee, which is made up of prominent archeologists and an array of public figures, including authors A.B. Yehoshua and Hebrew University Jewish philosophy professor Avi Ravitzky, has been at the forefront of a public struggle to stop illegal Muslim construction work on the Temple Mount.
In its ruling, the High Court rejected a demand by the committee for the state to complete the work within 90 days or to set a timetable for the completion of the work.
At the same time, it ordered the state to pay NIS 7,500 in court costs in light of "the contribution of the appellants to the awareness of the existing problem in this compound."
"This is the only place where you can see the earlier construction of the Temple Mount wall dated from the Hasmonean period," said Hebrew University archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, a group spokeswoman. "We have saved one of the most important archeological parks in Jerusalem."