Friday, March 28, 2008

Of All the Chutzpah

...Silwan's residents say the foundation is slowly tunneling its way towards control of the entire neighbourhood.

"You start wondering what is happening when they change the names of places," Qarain says. "This is Silwan, but they call it Ir David. We know this street as Wadi Helwa Siyam, but they put up signs calling it Maale David."

And it gets even more conspiratorial:-

Amin al-Siyam says he is awakened nearly every night by the sound of Jewish settlers tunneling under his east Jerusalem house towards the Old City's deeply sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

"We hear them at night, under the house. Sometimes the whole building shakes. Then they leave the next morning, early," Siyam says.

Actually, its Jewish revenanism.

The site, on a narrow, traffic-choked street running down the steep southern slope outside the Old City's walls is surrounded by a high metal fence, with a large Israeli flag fluttering over a padlocked gate.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority says it has found an ancient tunnel that once carried rainwater from the heart of the Old City to a ritual bathhouse several hundred metres away.

"It was a brand new tunnel from 2,000 years ago," says IAA head Shuka Dorfman. "The condition of the tunnel was unbelievable."

Starting in 2004 archaeologists excavated most of the tunnel between the dig site and the bathhouse.

But last month they started working north in the direction of Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.

Based on a late 19th century British excavation of large sections of the tunnel, archaeologists believe the tunnel leads to the Old City, veering close to the mosque complex but not passing beneath it.

Yet because the project is being carried out in secret and funded by a settler organisation, many residents think it is part of a plan to take over -- or destroy -- Haram al-Sharif.

Ir David provides around 600,000 dollars (380,000 euros) to the IAA every year for projects in and around the City of David but says it plays no part in the actual digging.

However, the foundation has sought to create a "living testament" to the historic Jewish presence in the mostly Palestinian neighbourhood.

"This is the most important place in the world for the Jewish people. We have been waiting for 2,000 years to come back to this area," says Doron Spielman, a senior foundation executive.

And here come the...Jews?

Meir Margalit, a spokesman for the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, says "the problem is not the archaeological digging, it is the agenda of the people who are behind the digging."

He and other Israeli activists fear that sensitive projects like Silwan, if left in the hands of right-wing groups, could one day be used to detonate the Middle East peace process.

"For a long time this has been a problematic issue, but now it is a dangerous issue," Margalit says.


And this revenanism gets better:-

It was a focal point of Jewish spiritual and cultural life in Jerusalem. It hosted the installation of the Ashkenazi chief rabbis of Palestine, and the historic addresses by Theodor Herzl at the turn of the century and by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook over the fate of European Jewry before the outbreak of World War II.

And now, six decades after it was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948, during the War of Independence, a page of Old City history is being revisited: the Hurva Synagogue is being rebuilt.

...The Hurva synagogue was built nearly a century and a half later by disciples of the prominent Jewish sage known as the Vilna Gaon.

Following its construction in 1864, the Hurva was the tallest building in the congested Jewish Quarter, its dome and that of the quarter's other main synagogue - Tifereth Yisrael - becoming a vivid and integral part of the city skyline in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

For the next 84 years, the structure became a center of Jewish spiritual and cultural activity, first under Ottoman and then under British rule.

,,,Both the Hurva and Tifereth Yisrael were among 29 Old City synagogues demolished by the Jordanian Army during the 1947-1949 Arab-Israeli war.

The Jordanians blew up the Hurva two days after the Jewish Quarter fell into their hands.


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