Thursday, June 21, 2007

Temple Mount Research

Today was the 17th Annual Conference of Judea and Samaria Research Studies sponsored by the College of Judea & Samaria.

As usual, the collection of articles from the previous year's conference is published for the current conference and I have selected two maps that illustrate the development of the Temple Mount's architecture for they highlight the problems - and the possible solutions - for entrance today into the compound area we today refer to as the Temple Mount.

They are from a presentation made by Ehud Netzer who became (additionally) famous this year for claiming to have discovered Herod's tomb entitled "The Planning of the Temple Mount by Herod".

The first map shows the four-stage physical development of the Temple Mount from the end of the Hasmonean Period (0), to the building of the Antonia Fortress (1), to the reconstruction of the Temple and its precincts (2) and to the final stage of expansion by Herod (3).

On the bottom left, illustration (1), you can see the Antonia fortress, in dark, with a moat-like ditch cutting across from right (north-east) to left (west-south). This is a natural barrier that later was filled in to enable to expand Temple Mount compound in a flat level to the north. This area then is outside the sacred 500 cubit square area. We know it exists from the topographic maps and if we can dig just a bit, we can discover a proof that the sacred portion only went to this point and no further.

The second map illustration shows more clearly how the Temple Mount changed shape.

To help you non-Hebrew readers, on the right, שער הזהב, is where the Gate of Mercy today is and under it, התפר, is the "seam line" some 32 or so meters from the south-east corner which delineates between the Hasmonean Wall and the Herodian Wall continuation southward.

On the bottom, you can see in broken-line outline, the two underground passageways from the Hulda Gate and the Triple Gate which end up exactly in line with the Muhgrabi Gate (where there was a fuss a few months ago). I actually walked through there in 1986, starting with the steps that lead under the El-Aksa Mosque all the way to the southern wall and back(*). The east-west line from the Muhgrabi Gate (known also as the Barkley Gate named after Charles Barkley), שער ברקלי, to the "Seam" passes right where the two undergound passages end and enter up into the courtyard! This should help you.

The central part of the map in white is where Netzer fixes the original 500 cubit square area.

As is obvious, it would appear that there is more than enough room outside the entire 500 cubit square area and more, if one takes into consideration certain differences in degrees of holiness between the inner and outer courtyards.

(*) Here's how the Jordanians reported on it to the UN:-

On instructions from my Government, I have the honour to bring to your attention the blatant desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied Arab city of Al-Quds committed by some 20 members of the Israeli Knesset on 8 January 1986 while the faithful were engaged in the midday prayer. The members of the Knesset, who belong to the Internal Affairs Committee of the Israeli parliament, entered the interior of the holy place with the intention of desecrating it by establishing a place of prayer there for adherents of the Jewish religion. Immediately upon entering the mosque, the Israeli parliamentarians encountered members of the faithful, who drove them out. The intruders then called the Israeli police. Before long a large number of police officers, led by the commander of the Southern Unit and the Al-Quds Chief of Police, arrived on the scene, entering the mosque with great show, provoking and outraging the faithful and offending the sentiments of the believers by flouting the inviolability of that holy place of Islam. In addition, the Israeli police attacked Muslims who were present and the civilian guards of the mosque, who were shocked by this humiliating treatment. It should be pointed out that this is not the first time that the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been the target of desecration and violation by Israeli extremists. This despicable attack and irresponsible behaviour on the part of members of the Israeli legislature has aroused the indignation, repulsion and anger of the inhabitants of Al-Quds, the West Bank and the entire Muslim world. Sheikh Saad Eddine El-Ilmi, President of the Supreme Muslim Council, has sent a telegram of protest to the Israeli leaders demanding the withdrawal of their occupation troops which have, since yesterday, been blocking the entrance to the mosque.

This act of aggression committed by members of the Israeli Knesset, including Julia Cohen, who has openly advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Al-Quds and the West Bank, constitutes a violation and a desecration of the holy places of Islam and a challenge to hundreds of millions of Moslems, for whom the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the place towards which all the faithful turn at the beginning of their prayers and the third most holy place of Islam. This act of aggression is part and parcel of an Israeli plan directed against Muslim and Christian sacred monuments in Al-Quds and the occupied Arab territories.

No comments: