Monday, October 29, 2007

Olmert's Lack of Sensitivity

On Sensitivity
By Arieh Eldad

from Ma'ariv, Oct. 26, 2007

Jerusalem’s Kfar Shiloah, Silwan as it is called by its Arab residents, lies on the southern slope of the Temple Mount. The Arab residents prostrate themselves five times a day when praying towards Mecca and turning their backs to the Temple Mount and the El Aksa Mosque that stands on the mount’s top. All the world’s Moslems, including those in Jerusalem, face Mecca. All the Jews in the world face the Temple Mount when they pray. And yet the Temple Mount is famously holy to Moslems - and a very sensitive place.

Just before the most recent Ramadan, an electric cable leading towards El Aksa shorted. The Wakf, to whom the Temple Mount has been entrusted – perhaps it would be better to say abandoned – announced it intends to dig a five hundred meter long trench in order to replace the cable, which had been laid fifty years ago.

Temple Mount is a sensitive place – the most sensitive place in the world, says the Israeli Government and its Antiquities Authority. So sensitive that Jews are forbidden to ascent the Mount to stand for even a brief moment moving their lips in silent prayer, for fear that this will enrage a billion Moslems who will torch the whole world. The sensitivity about Temple Mount is obviously one-sided: The Arabs are sensitive; the authorities ignore the sensitivity of Jews. Therefore the director of the Antiquities Authority, Shouka Dorfman, hurriedly approved the Wakf’s request and insisted only that he would send an archeologist to watch over the work. The Archeology Law sets the guidelines for archeological excavations in Israel and what needs to be done when other work is done at an archeological site. Of course such a dig is not left in the hands of a construction company. Expert archeologists from the Antiquities Authority dig at the site and only after they have ensured that all finds are preserved against damage, does the director of the Authority allow the work to continue. And Temple Mount is a sensitive site, and therefore the government’s legal advisor ordered that any work on the Mount can be approved only by a special ministerial committee. The Arabs told Shouka Dorfman that the work was urgent and because of the aforementioned sensitivity, he ignored the law and the orders and on his own authorized the Wakf’s tractor to dig across the entire Mount. Can anyone imagine him allowing a tractor to do something similar anywhere else in the country?

Dr. Eilat Mazar, a senior archeologist who has been working in Jerusalem for years, compares the tractor’s work on the Mount to performing open heart surgery with a rake. But no Jewish heart in the Antiquities Authority shuddered when the Wakf was allowed to bring a tractor to the remains of the Temple that stood on Temple Mount. Nor previously did they do anything to stop the Arabs when they built a huge underground mosque in Solomon’s Stables, cutting the Temple’s stones into pavement and dumping thousands of tons of dirt into the Kidron riverbed, destroying the remains of the Temple whose very existence they deny.

Even if the Antiquities Authority does not have the courage to initiate scientific digs on the Temple Mount because of the sensitivity, it certainly is obligated to perform an emergency excavation on the Mount when the Wakf wants to dig to make repairs; so why didn’t they do so? This week in the Knesset, Shouka Dorfman explained to the Government Oversight Committee that the work was “urgent.” Did he offer the mosque a generator that could provide electricity while the archeologists did their work? No, he did not. Did the Authority consider alternatives - for instance, in order to avoid digging across the entire Mount, bringing a cable up along the southern wall of the Mount, thus rendering the bulldozer unnecessary? No, they did not consider alternatives. Why not?

At this point it was obvious that the director of the Antiquities Authority was fed up with the members of the Government Oversight Committee, these nudniks who were insisting he operate according to the law, while he knows what the prime minister wants from him, so why bother even with the required ministerial committee?

Ehud Olmert, who has decided to divide Jerusalem and give the Arabs sovereignty over Temple Mount, has no interest in the Mount, nor any sensitivity to the holy places of Israel. If the Arabs want to dig up the Mount, let them dig. Olmert has already abandoned the whole Temple Mount, so why should he care about a ditch? Shouka Dorfman, director of the Antiquities Authority, is professionally, legally, and nationally delinquent; he executed Olmert’s will as a marionette, abandoning the most important Jewish site in the world to the Wakf’s tractors. The archeologist who is no more than window dressing saved a single object from the First Temple and let the rest be turned into dust, because such finds may antagonize the Arabs and they are, as we know, sensitive.

About such people as these, it has been said, that a nation that does not honor its past - has no future.

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