by Shlomo Cesana
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and others have denied that the two temples ever existed atop Temple Mount; they would like to obscure this fact. But thanks to the excavations, the truth has been exposed for everyone -- from all nations -- to see.
"Jerusalem, the way down," read the headline of a two-page feature in Haaretz's edition last Friday, the Passover edition. I was infuriated by this headline.
It dealt with the underground spaces in the "Historic Basin of Jerusalem" (the Old City and its environs). I really hoped it would be an informative piece about the history of those sites, but upon reading it I noticed it was just an inciting propaganda piece that could feed conspiracy theories and stir tensions. The subhead read: "Several years from now, visitors to the Old City would be able to visit another city -- underground Jerusalem. It will have archeological finds, secret pathways and various venues where people can hold events. But what would not be there? Arabs, or anything that attests to their existence several meters above. This will be a journey in the caves of Jerusalem with only one nation present."
Reading that excerpt, you would think the only goal of this project was to make sure "there are no Arabs in sight." But here is a reminder: We have been here for 4,000 years. It all started on and at the foot of the Temple Mount: The United Monarchy of Israel and Judah, the two temples, and the collective prayer that remains: "Next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem."
The article mentions that one day the area known as the Western Wall Tunnels will connect other sites. This is an apparent effort to remind the readers of the riots following Israel's 1996 inauguration of a new exit from the main tunnel in the complex, which resulted in 17 dead Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian national movement, including the present-day Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Movement, has always claimed that Israel was carrying out excavations beneath the Temple Mount in order to sabotage the Islamic holy sites in the area. That is of course a blatant lie because the tunnel network being excavated doesn't go up toward the mountain.
It is clear that Haaretz wanted to criticize Israel's actions. The Gihon Spring for example, the site just off the Temple Mount where some of our ancient kings were anointed, is referred to by its Arabic name. In case you forget, earlier this month, the Palestinians managed to change the language of a UNESCO resolution by omitting the words "Temple Mount" and keeping the reference to "Al-Aqsa mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif and its surroundings."
Ir David Foundation, which seeks to bolster the Jewish ties to the city, is portrayed in a negative light in the Haaretz piece, but the left-wing nonprofit group Emek Shaveh is presented to the readers with supposed objectivity. It just happens that in 2015 Emek Shaveh published an online report that had striking similarities to the Haaretz piece. The report is called "Underground Jerusalem: The excavation of tunnels, channels, and underground spaces in the Historic Basin."
According to Emek Shaveh, the report aims to shed light on "Israeli efforts to undermine the Palestinian ownership [of sites]." I am sure the Haaretz piece just happened to be similar to the report. Then again, the fact that Emek Shaveh published a large advertisement in Friday's Haaretz edition day made me squirm.
The Haaretz piece includes a map that suggests that the excavations have run, for the most part, for decades, and that in some cases they are being conducted within mosques and Christian monasteries. It's sad to see the group go there. Why use bitter and divisive language to discuss this interesting subject?
By the way, the tunnels our enemies dig from the Gaza Strip are supposed to serve as a game-changer against Israel. The excavations here in Jerusalem are first and foremost an archeological undertaking and a scientific endeavor that serves the tourism industry and the economy. And on a day-to-day level, the excavations in Jerusalem give Israel its own game-changing weapon in the battle over the truth – it allows Israel to expose the true facts regarding our history here. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and others have denied that the two temples ever existed atop Temple Mount; they would like to obscure this fact. But thanks to the excavations, the truth has been exposed for everyone -- from all nations -- to see.
Haaretz found a good story, a very interesting story, but the way in which it presented it to its readers matched the libelous Palestinian narrative, according to which the excavations are politically motivated and are part of an Israeli plot.
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