Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Battle of the Bulge Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Esther Hecht

Two years after the Israel Antiquities Authority surveyed a bulge on the southern retaining wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount and found it to be of "alarming size," repair work has begun to prevent the partial collapse of the wall. The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, has been closed to non-Muslims since the current unrest began in September 2000. Getting the repairs under way at this extremely tense time has necessitated the utmost discretion and diplomacy.

Near the southeastern corner of the mount, the swelling is over 2,000 square feet in area, and starts about 25 feet from the top of the wall. Now the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust, has started repairing the wall as part of its continuing maintenance of the Temple Mount walls, says Waqf director Adnan Husseini. But the repair might take up to a year because of an Israeli ban on bringing construction materials to the mount, according to Husseini. Jerusalem Police spokesman Koby Zrihen says, "We are looking into the whole subject of the repair of the southern wall...and will act in accordance with our findings."

The Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, an Israeli group that includes archaeologists and public figures, has accused the Waqf of causing the bulge by building a mosque in the adjacent structure known as Solomon's Stables ("Jerusalem's Temple Mount Flap," March/April 2000). Most Israeli archaeologists say the bulge predates the mosque and is the result of structural weakness of the wall, repaired repeatedly over the centuries.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America