Mohammed Mar’i, Arab News
Saturday 3 November 2007
Last Update 3 November 2007 12:00 am
RAMALLAH, 3 November 2007 — The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Mohammed Hussein yesterday slammed an Israeli plan to construct an underground passage Jerusalem’s Old City to link the reconstructed Israeli synagogue “Ohel Yitzhak” in the Muslim quarter with the Western Wall (Al-Buraq Wall) tunnels in the Jewish quarter.
Hussein said that the “goal of Israeli digging under the Muslim quarter in the city is causing its mosques and mainly Al-Aqsa Mosque to collapse.” According the Jewish Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which is planning the project, the passageway will utilize existing spaces created by archaeological excavations beneath the Muslim quarter. This would minimize the need for new digging, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz of the foundation said.
The idea still needs approval from the Israeli government, security services and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said the foundation signed an agreement a few days ago with Cherna Moskowitz, who owns the Ohel Yitzhak complex. Moskowitz is the wife of American Jewish tycoon Irving Moskowitz, who has been active in settling Jews in Muslim areas of Jerusalem.
According to the agreement, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation will manage and maintain both Ohel Yitzhak and the areas beneath it that the IAA has excavated. The foundation plans to open an educational institute and museum at the site, which will preserve the antiquities unearthed by the excavations.
IAA Director General Yehoshua Dorfman said that while he has not studied the foundation’s plan carefully, his initial impression is that it is a good idea, assuming that the IAA’s professional staff approves and that the foundation complies with any conditions the IAA sets.
In a related development, the Al Aqsa Foundation for rebuilding Islamic Holy Sites, warned yesterday of the dangers of new Israeli excavations carried only fifty meters away from the southern wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and only a few meters away from the walls of the Old City.
The foundation stated in a statement that the excavations are shaking the ground and causing damages to Palestinian houses near the site. The excavations are also carried out to create a tunnel to link these facilities with Al-Magharebah Gate and the Western Wall.