Muslim prayer room found near Al Magharbah Gate three years ago
By Mohammed Mar'i
Ramallah, Occupied West Bank, 19 February, (Asiantribune.com): Israeli archeologist Yuval Baruch revealed that remains of an ancient Muslim prayer room was found under the dirt embankment adjacent to Al Magharbah Gate in 2004. The findings, unearthed after part of the embankment collapsed into the Western Wall compound, were kept secret until now.
The information was withheld from the public but had been known to various Israeli officials. The findings were revealed in an article posted on the Israel Antiquities Authority's internet site by Baruch, who works in the Jerusalem district.
In an article entitled "The real story," Baruch revealed that when the embankment collapsed near the Al Magharbah Bridge, a small room with a roofed alcove and a dome was unearthed - a type of Muslim prayer alcove facing south. Some have suggested that these are the remains of a prayer room which was originally part of a school for Muslim studies which operated adjacent to the Al Magharbah Gate.
The remains apparently date back to the 11th century, the Salah al-Din era known as the Ayub Period and which is of great significance to the Muslim world. This important finding was kept secret in fear that the Muslim community would demand that the site, adjacent to the Western Wall compound, be declared sacred.
One of the Muslim arguments who protest the Israeli excavations taking place near Al Magharbah Bridge is that the destruction of the embankment would damage Al Aqsa Mosque. The findings published by the Antiquities Authority are likely to support this argument.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that "this indicates that the Israeli excavations at Al Magharbah Gate aren't coincidental"," this is an attempt to hide Islamic evidence from the site".
Adnan Husseini, chairman of the Muslim Wakf in Jerusalem expressed anger that Israel withheld news of the discovery for three years. "We didn't hear anything about this," He said. "They are always hiding things."
The head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch said that this is a proof that Al Aqsa Mosque compound is a Muslim Wakf. "The Western Wall - on all its various parts, structures and gates, and all the names these parts, structures and gates are called – is an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound," declared Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Salah. The Western Wall "is part of Al-Aqsa's western tower, which the Israeli establishment fallaciously and sneakily calls the 'Wailing Wall'. The wall is part of the holy al-Aqsa Mosque," added Salah.
Sources at the Israeli Antiquities Authority say the aim of the excavations is to preserve findings that may be unearthed there. Meir Ben Dov, an archaeologist and a Jerusalem researcher, expressed his astonishment Saturday in wake of the findings. "Our irresponsible behavior has provided Sheikh Raed Salah with ammunition. Why was this kept secret for three years? And how can it be said that there are no sites on the embankment related to Islam? It is inconceivable that these findings were not reported to the Muslims and that tractors were sent to an area where clearly there are important findings from the Ayub Period," he said.
Meanwhile the Israeli court in Jerusalem postponed trial of Palestinian Chief Islamic Judge Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi over Jerusalem old-city restraining order to 8th of May. The Israeli authorities have decided to bring Shaikh Tamimi, to trial on Sunday 18th February 2007, in the Russian detention center in Jerusalem. The court accuses Sheikh Tamimi of inciting against Israel, entering the city of Jerusalem and praying in the Al-Aqsa mosque without an Israeli permit.
The office of the supreme judge issued a statement, saying that the supreme judge was supposed to appear in court on these charges last month, yet the trial was delayed.
Sheikh Tamimi himself commented on the issue saying, "This trial is merely political, since the Israel court has nothing to do with any affairs related to the Al-Aqsa mosque, or the city of Jerusalem, according to international treaties, namely the Fourth Geneva convention. That convention classifies the city of Jerusalem as "occupied territory", along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to which Israeli legislations are inapplicable."
The decision to annex Jerusalem was contradictory to international laws, added Sheikh Tamimi. The Palestinian chief judge stressed that it is his very right to enter the city of Jerusalem and pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque, "a right which I won't surrender to any force in the universe".
- Asian Tribune -