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Friday, February 16, 2007

The real story of the Mughrabi gate

For those interested in the real history of the Mughrabi gate area - where the digging has been going on below the Temple Mount - I recommend this article:
After the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist institutions began to emphasize the Western Wall as a national symbol of the Jewish people, in addition to its religious significance. This action led the Mufti of Jerusalem to claim that the Jews intended to take control of the Western Wall, so he declared the Wall - with no religious or historical substantiation - a holy Moslem site. This wall of stones, to which the Muslims ascribed no importance, was thenceforth called El Buraq, after the name of the magical horse of the Prophet Mohammed.

In the 1920s, the Mufti of Jerusalem ordered the opening of the Mughrabi Gate in the southern plaza, thus turning the prayer plaza from a cul-de-sac into a thoroughfare for passersby, who disturbed the worshipers. In August 1929, an incited Muslim mob rampaged through the opening torn by the Mufti in the south of the plaza, attacking the Jewish worshipers and destroying ritual objects. Several days later, the 1929 riots broke out. As a result of these riots, the British established a committee of investigation. The committee’s report included a specific statement on the use of the El Buraq myth by the Mufti to incite the Arabs against the Jews.


A new momentum in archaeological and historical research in the area began after the Six-Day War, when large-scale archaeological excavations were conducted in the area of the Western Wall under the direction of Professor Benjamin Mazar. Most were implemented in the area to the south of the Western Wall plaza, and another area was excavated within the plaza itself. Later, archaeologist Meir Ben Dov supervised the excavations conducted in the Western Wall tunnel and under the houses of the Muslim quarter, an operation that was continued more vigorously by Dan Bahat. From the start, the excavations aroused strong opposition in Islamic circles and international organizations, which did not accept the actions of the Israeli researchers in Jerusalem, irrespective of the discoveries themselves. Sometimes it was a quiet opposition and sometimes, when the voices of incitement took over, the matter led to outbursts and violence. Those opposing the excavations rationalized their actions by expressing ostensible concern for excavations under the walls of the area and the intentional destruction of the mosques above.

Excavations conducted by Mazar to the south of the Western Wall and by Ben Dov and Bahat in the Western Wall tunnels uncovered extremely important archaeological discoveries, which contribute a great deal to our knowledge of Jerusalem's past. The archaeologists removed many layers, including those along the length of the walls of the Temple Mount itself. They uncovered the layers of the Herodian site, in all their splendor and might, next to which were the steps of the Hulda gates and the streets of the city from the Second Temple period, which had been covered by the collapse of great stones that were dismantled by Roman soldiers from the walls of the sacred site. The Romans built new structures on top of the Jewish ruins, some of which, like the Roman bathhouse, were discovered at the site. In the Byzantine period, the site was also very prestigious, and next to the main paved street (the Cardo), dozens of Byzantine residences and public structures were built. Noteworthy among the important discoveries made in those excavations are four enormous structures that were built by the first Muslim rulers of Jerusalem of the Umayyad dynasty. In the 1990s, the Antiquities Authority renewed the excavations in the area of the archaeological park to the south of the Western Wall, and it was opened as a beautiful modern archaeological park, displaying remnants from Jerusalem's past which faithfully represent the city's history. The Western Wall tunnels were also opened to the general public.
Read it all.


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