In the middle of a December night, a long line of trucks hauled several hundred loads of dirt from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and dumped them into the nearby Kidron Valley. The Muslim Waqf, which oversees the Temple Mount, says it is constructing a much-needed secondary entrance to the underground Marwani Mosque, located in the Solomon's Stables area. But archaeologists want to know why unsupervised excavations are continuing at one of the world's most sensitive political and religious sites. Prime Minister Ehud Barak granted permission for the construction with the provision that it be done under archaeological supervision. There is no indication, however, that any archaeologists are involved in the project. Some archaeologists and Jewish leaders also raise concerns that the Waqf is attempting to remove any trace of a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount for political reasons. When the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) seemed unconcerned about the debris, Bar Ilan University student Zachy Zweig assembled a group of volunteers and headed for the Kidron Valley. But Zweig's salvage mission stopped on the second day, when IAA inspectors confiscated pottery his team had collected and ordered Zweig and his team out of the area."It's absurd," Zweig says. "The Waqf, in charge of the Temple Mount, can ruin any archaeological relics that they want and throw it away, and we cannot even look around the garbage of the archaeological damage?"Zweig further antagonized the IAA when he presented some of his findings at the university. In an interview, he reported that 40 percent of the recovered pottery was from the First Temple Period. Other artifacts dated back to the 1500s. Police raided Zweig's apartment in early January and held him for questioning. He refused to cooperate and was released. Israel's High Court of Justice rejected a petition by a Jewish group called Temple Mount Faithful to halt the Temple Mount digging. Zweig has taken his campaign to the Internet, posting photos of the antiquities for others to study.

Related Elsewhere

Zweig's site, The Temple Mount Dumps Survey Report, has dozens of photos as well as news about the excavations and political turmoil surrounding them. "Due to my arrest there is a delay in finishing the report," he writes plainly.The Israel Antiquities Authority's site has a statement about the Temple Mount excavation and development work.

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