Security guard kills Jewish man near Western Wall


A security guard shot dead a 46-year-old Jewish man whom he mistook for a terrorist near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The guard, a civilian employed by a private company, said the man had shouted “Allah hu akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) and tried to extract an object from his pocket before the security guard fired his sidearm Friday morning, Army Radio reported.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard opened fire with his pistol because he suspected the man was a terrorist.

The 46-year-old man, who reportedly has no family in Israel and who was not identified by name, died 20 minutes later as paramedics were trying to stabilize him and treat his multiple gunshot wounds. He was the only person hit in the incident.

A man who knew the victim and was present during the shooting told Army Radio the man came to the Western Wall nearly every day and was a volunteer cook for the Chabad movement.

“I don’t understand why they shot him. Everybody knows him around here but he was alone because his family is in France,” said the man, whose name Army Radio did not reveal.

The interviewee also told Army Radio that the deceased was “very frustrated with the establishment.”

Ten women arrested at Western Wall for praying with prayer shawls


Ten women participating in a women's prayer service with hundreds of worshippers and supporters at the Western Wall were arrested for wearing prayer shawls.

Those arrested Monday morning included Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter Hallel Abramovitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall, who has been arrested several times in recent months; and two U.S. rabbis, Debra Cantor of B'nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Robin Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Queens, NY.

The women had gathered at the back of the women's section, as they have at the beginning of every new Jewish month since 1988, for Rosh Chodesh services for the new Jewish month of Adar. It was the largest number of participants for the monthly event since its inception, organizers told Israeli media.

The women were joined on the other side of the mechitza, the barrier which separates the sexes at the Wall, by a number of male supporters, including six former Israel Defense Forces paratroopers who had been among those that liberated the Western Wall during the Six Day War in 1967.  One of the paratroopers was Dr. Yitzhak Yifat of Jerusalem, who is famous as one of the three paratroopers in the iconic photograph of three soldiers standing at the Western Wall shortly after its liberation. Yifat is the middle paratrooper in the photo by David Rubinger.

The arrests reportedly were made at the end of service, after most of the participants and media had left the Western Wall Plaza. Police had stood on the sidelines as the women prayed and then danced in a circle holding their prayer shawls, according to Haaretz.

The women's prayer group moved its Torah reading from the Wall to outside the Old City of Jerusalem police department, where the arrested women were taken.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

Women participating in the Rosh Chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order.”

Discovery of King David-era fort stirs debate on size of kingdom


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Under a sky of darkening clouds on a hill above the valley where tradition says David and Goliath battled, archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel triumphantly rests his hands on a 10-ton limestone rock, part of a newly discovered second gate to an ancient fortified city he is unearthing.

Garfinkel sees the massive gate, the largest ever found from the period, as potentially further evidence that the first kingdom of the Israelites was as grand as the Bible describes.

“Here we are in the footsteps of David,” says Garfinkel, a Hebrew University professor, his voice quickening with excitement. Noting the gate’s eastward direction, he adds, “It’s facing Jerusalem, another indication that it is part of the Judean kingdom.”

This 3,000-year-old fortress with two gates, to this day surrounded by a stone wall that contains original stones from the period, is the only one of its kind ever uncovered. Garfinkel believes it could be the remains of a town referred to in the Bible as Sha’arayim, meaning “two gates” in Hebrew.

The unearthing of the two gates, along with a pottery shard found by a teenage dig-site volunteer inscribed with what is believed to be the earliest known Hebrew text written in a Proto-Canaanite script, are being heralded as significant historical finds for a period — the 10th century B.C.E. — with scant physical evidence.

But the site also provides a lens on the wider debate over how vast and unified a kingdom David did or did not build so many centuries ago — a question of present-day interest and controversy, as the founders of Israel declared their modern Jewish state the long-interrupted continuation of the kingdom this legendary ancient figure is thought to have established.

Some scholars argue that David’s Jerusalem was merely a backwater village glorified into a mythical place by those they say penned the Bible centuries later. Others suggest that true to its biblical description, it was a genuine power overseeing a strong and united kingdom. The discovery of what is being called the Elah Fortress has quickly been used to reinforce the latter argument.

Located on the road to Jerusalem, the fortress could have been a front-line defense of the city against enemy Philistines, Garfinkel says, and evidence of a powerful and centralized kingdom that needed protection.

An Israeli-based Jewish educational group called Foundation Stone (www.foundationstone.org) has embraced the idea that the site could help confirm the historic footprints of the Bible. The group is helping to raise funds for its excavation and hopes to develop the site into a first-rate tourism and educational facility, for Jews and non-Jews. Foundation Stone wants the site to become a must-see part of travels to Israel and even have tourists participate in its uncovering as volunteers at the dig.

Garfinkel is bold in his pronouncements against the school of archaeologists skeptical that the Bible left behind a chronologically reliable physical trail of evidence, arguing that the Elah Fortress, located in the Elah Valley near the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, is an important new weapon in the ongoing discourse.

“It’s telling them that they are wrong,” he says. “A certain amount of the biblical tradition indeed preserves historical stories and historical events. This is the first time in the history of archaeology of Israel that you have a fortified city dated to the time of David.”

Even in Jerusalem, he says, there is no clear physical record of what occurred in the 10th century B.C.E., when David, and later his son, Saul, were to have ruled. In large part that’s because the city, inhabited continuously since David’s time, is extremely difficult to excavate.

“No archaeological site gave you such a clear picture about the Kingdom of David” as this one, Garfinkel says.

He was scheduled to present his findings Tuesday to colleagues at Harvard University.

However, disagreeing with him is Israel Finkelstein, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist and author of “David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition.”

“David and Solomon were historical figures, but we have to look at every piece of evidence very carefully,” Finkelstein says.

Finkelstein, a father of the scholarly group that is skeptical that the biblical narrative can be proven through archaeology, thinks it’s too early to say whether the city was in fact Judean. He suggests it is even more likely a Philistine city because of its physical proximity to Gath, a major Philistine town and, according to the Bible, Goliath’s hometown.

Garfinkel says he is open to the possibility that the site could turn out to be Philistine, but he thinks it is unlikely because of a lack of pig bones found there and the writing on the pottery shard.

Finkelstein, however, also casts doubt on whether the Proto-Canaanite script found on the pottery shard will be confirmed as Hebrew and dismisses outright the notion that the site could be the Sha’arayim mentioned in the Bible.

He says it could not be the same town, because when Sha’arayim is listed as a Judean town in the Book of Joshua, it is clustered with a group of places that have all been dated to the seventh century B.C.E., and the site of the Elah Fortress was shown to have been abandoned at least 200 years earlier.

“Archaeology has always been used in many places in the world to support this or that idea or theory that have to deal with the holy and nation building,” says Finkelstein, seeing the way this site is being approached as another example.

Barnea Selevan, co-director of Foundation Stone, says the significance of the site for his organization is at least in part “because some people say the Bible has no historical basis to it.”

Garfinkel cautions that the excavation is still in very early stages and that it will take the next decade to unearth even 30 to 40 percent of the city. He notes that it was first surveyed by British archaeologists in the 19th century but was then largely forgotten until his carbon dating of its stones found that it dated to the elusive but important 10th century B.C.E. period.

“All throughout the 20th century it was forgotten,” and now it could be a turning point find, he muses.

“It’s very exciting,” Garfinkel says. “You have a theory, and then you begin to be able to prove it.”

VIDEO: Archaeologists excavate 2100-year-old wall in Jerusalem


A 2,100-year-old section of the wall surrounding Jerusalem, dating from Hasmonean times, has been unearthed on Mount Zion, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The excavations have revealed part of the expanded southern city wall, from the Second Temple period, when ancient Jerusalem was at its largest.

 

KIDS PAGE


Schmooze About Tammuz

We have now entered the period Jews call “The Three Weeks.” These are the weeks between two fast days: one is the 17th of Tammuz (the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached) and the other is Tisha B’av, the ninth of Av, the day the Romans destroyed our Temple.

Traditional Jews observe a period of mourning during this time. They don’t listen to live music or hold joyous celebrations, like weddings. During the nine days before Tisha B’Av, they don’t cut their hair or eat meat.

When in Rome…

1) If Romans didn’t like their children:

a. They locked them in their rooms.

b. They sold them as slaves.

c. They took away their games.

2) For toothpaste, Romans used:

a. Ground-up bones.

b. Soap.

c. Powdered mice brains.

Roman Arithmetic

Try some math using the following Roman numbers:

I = 1

V = 5

X = 10

L = 50

C = 100

D = 500

M = 1000

1) What would 2005 be in Roman numerals? Can you write the year you were born in Roman numerals?

2) Solve this equation:

LXXXVIII + XII = ???

The Name Game

Roman children played many of the same games you play. Fill in the correct letters to complete the names of the games:

1) __ __ __ __ A __ __ __ __ __ K

2) __ A __

3) H O __ __ __ O __ __ __

4) L __ __ P __ __ O __

5) __ A __ L

Kids Page


A Sad Time

This year, the 17th of Tammuz falls on Sunday, July 24. This is a fast day — no eating, no drinking. Why? Because on this day, thousands of years ago, the Romans breached the wall of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, the Temple was destroyed.

History Lesson

The 17th of Tammuz is a bad day all around for the Jewish people as many tragedies have befallen them on this day throughout the ages. Help tell the story by filling in the correct words:

ten, miscalculated, one, Torah, killed, Jewish, ghetto, Jerusalem, golden, broke.

The Israelites _____________ the return of Moses from the top of Mount Sinai by _____ day. When he returned, they had already built the ____________ calf.

Moses got so mad he threw the ______ commandments down and they _______ into 1,000 pieces.

In 3184 (586 BCE), after months of siege by the wicked Nebuchadnezzar’s army, the walls of ______________ were finally breached.

In the time of the Roman occupation, the captain of the Roman forces, publicly burned a ________ on that day.

In 1391, more than 4,000 Spanish Jews were ______________ in Toledo.

In 1559 the _________ Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.

In 1944, the entire population of the Kovno _______ was sent to the death camps.

Amazing Summer Contest!

Don’t forget to take pictures and write a great story about an amazing thing you did this summer and send it in. You have a few more weeks until the deadline.

The winners will be published in the paper and will receive a prize.

 

Circuit


 

A Slice of New York

What better way for school kids to mark President’s Day Weekend than with a trip to New York and a slice of pizza?

On Feb. 19, 100 members of Jewish Student Union clubs, including 69 Los Angeles-area public high school students, took part in the third annual JSU New York Experience.

A public high school outreach organization, JSU is partially funded by the Orthodox Union (OU), and was founded by Rabbi Steven Burg of Los Angeles. JSU clubs have sprung up all around the country, giving Jewish students in public high schools the opportunity to meet in their lunch hour, socialize, grab a slice of pizza and receive informal education about their Jewish heritage.

On the latest N.Y. trip, the students took in the Big Apple’s major tourist sites, as well as a visit to OU headquarters in Manhattan, where the students were served the requisite pizza lunch.

Confronting Hate

About 800 people attended a panel discussion at the Nessah Educational and Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on Feb. 23, to hear three authors discuss America and Europe’s inability to confront Islamic radicalism.

Among the panel, moderated by Avi Davis, Israel-Christian Nexus’ executive director, was Cairo-born Bat Ye’or, whose latest book is “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis.” She told the guests, “We are now facing a period of jihad. And America is the principal target … this is not a small event that will pass. Now we see flourishing in a Europe a Palestinian cult which is totally anti-Israeli.”

Author Robert Spencer, who wrote “Onward Muslim Soldiers” and “Islam Unveiled,” said that in the United States, the far left “has been arrayed against Western civilization for so long that they cannot see the threat to themselves that the jihad poses, and are simply using it to fight the same battles they’ve fought since the ’60s.”

“Islamikaze” author Raphaeli Israeli said, “Muslims in Europe bear a desire to Islamicize that entire continent.”

Attendees at the event, sponsored by the Israel Christian Nexus, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Zionist Organization of America, included Nessah’s Rabbi David Shofet, Nessah synagogue president Morgan Hakimi and RJC Southern California Director Larry Greenfield. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer.

Barking Mad?

In what has become something of a ritual, Santa Monica’s Temple Beth Shir Shalom held its lead up to Purim event – a “bark” mitzvah ceremony – in the synagogue “barking lot.”

The event, which was open to the public, encouraged members and nonmembers alike to bring their dogs, cats, birds and any other of God’s creatures (including stuffed animals) to the ceremony.

Led by Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, participants took part in a Jewish challenge course in order to “qualify” for the bark mitzvah, enjoyed a brief service, received bark mitzvah certificates and a commemorative photograph of the happy occasion and enjoyed a party with animal-friendly treats. All proceeds raised ($18 per participant) went to Canine Companions.

Jerusalem-Style Touchdown

On Feb. 23, the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem welcomed an extra special guest, none other than New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft himself.

Kraft was on hand to celebrate the rededication of the stadium he donated, which is home to American Flag Football in Israel (AFI).

But AFI is not just for men – there’s a women’s team, too, (WAFI) and Angeleno Jessie Kandel, who is studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem this year, is a member.

“It wasn’t until we originally dedicated this field in ’99 that we won three out of the last four Super Bowls,” Kraft said, addressing the hundreds who turned out for the ceremony. “I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence.”

Attendees at the event included Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and AFI League President Steve Leibowitz.

In honor of the event, the Jerusalem Police Marching Band played both “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”

“In our lifetime I never thought I’d be able to feel the special ruach of hearing the American national anthem and then hearing Hatikvah,” Kraft said. “It gave me the chills.”

Weizmann Women

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science Women and Science Program, hosted a luncheon Feb. 1 honoring Judy Felsenthal, who has been the Women and Science chair for the past six years.

Keynote speaker at the Regency Club event was professor Ruth Arnon of the Institute’s immunology department and one of the world’s leading chemical immunologists. Her research in multiple sclerosis led to the development of Copaxone, a drug that treats the disease.

Chabad’s New Digs

Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad held a lavish banquet to dedicate a new building next door to its current Melrose-La Brea location and to honor those who had made significant contributions to the school.

The event marked the inauguration of a new dormitory and beit midrash.

Rabbi Ezra B. Shochet, rosh yeshiva, presented awards to Dr. Ze’ev and Varda Rav-Noy, who dedicated the campus; Alon and Rosana Miller and Reb Berel and Miriam Weiss, who received the Yissachar-Zevulun Partnership award; Sam and Vera Menlo, who dedicated the beit midrash; Ronald and Polly Stackler, who dedicated the mikvah; Reb Mottel and Sonya Kornwasser, who dedicated the main entrance; Lyle and Tammy Weisman, who dedicated the main lobby; and Mila Kornwassar, who dedicated the computer lab in memory of her husband, Aharon Yaakov ben Eliezer.

Former student Benny Friedman provided musical entertainment for the evening, while high schooler Eliyahu Nachum Eilfort of La Costa and beit midrash student Yosef Abraham of Texas offered their thoughts about the opening.

Million-Dollar (Plus) Baby

Rosalie Zalis stepped into the ballroom at the Beverly Hills Hotel and saw the crowd massed to honor Bruce Ramer.

“I don’t believe it!” she said. Then, on second thought, added, “Actually, I do believe it.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored the attorney and philanthropist at the March 10 event with its 25th Learned Hand Award, named in memory of the great American jurist, Judge Learned Hand.

On hand to celebrate were Mayor James Hahn, accepting congrats on his fresh victory in the mayoral primary; Israel’s Consul General Ehud Danoch; AJC President Peter Weil; Universal Pictures Chair Stacy Snider; Shamrock Holdings CEO Stanley Gold; Sheriff Lee Baca; actress Doris Roberts; Jewish Community Foundation head Marv Schotland and more than 700 others.

“We have 300 extra people to fit in,” said slightly frazzled but elated AJC Executive Director Rabbi Gary Greenebaum.

The huge turnout helped AJC raise $1.5 million (surpassing the international human rights group’s previous record by $300,000).

Ramer, ranked among the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Review, has served the AJC for 30 years, including a stint as national president from 1998-2001. He’s a trustee of USC, and a board member of, among other organizations, the Shoah Visual History Foundation, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games and founding chairman of the Geffen Playhouse.

Ramer’s professional life is as storied as his philanthropic one. He represents some of the entertainment industry’s top talent, including long-time client Steven Spielberg, who was a dinner chair for the event.

At the dinner, Ramer was his effervescent self, dispensing hugs and thank-yous to friends and colleagues.

Longtime friend Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), stuck in D.C., made a satellite screen appearance, and actor-director Clint Eastwood – a client for 35 years – presented Ramer with his award.

“Being a man of few words, let me just say a few choice ones about Bruce,” Eastwood said. “Kind. Gentle. Honest. Honorable. Sincere. Compassionate. Devoted. Committed. Caring. Loving. He is a man of total integrity.”

For more information on AJC, visit

How the Maccabees Reshaped Jerusalem


 

The Maccabees are celebrated throughout the Jewish world for recapturing Jerusalem for the Jews, rededicating the Temple and lighting lamps with a day’s supply of oil that miraculously lasted for eight days.

Less well-known, according to a leading Israeli archaeologist, is that the Maccabees also were major builders who transformed the face of Jerusalem and restored the centrality of the Temple in Jewish life.

“The problem is that Herod the Great built so thoroughly that many remains of the Maccabeans have almost disappeared,” said Dan Bahat, a senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University who is spending the academic year lecturing at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

The Maccabeans, who founded the Hasmonean dynasty, likely inspired King Herod’s vision of the Temple, said Bahat, whose specialty is Jerusalem of the Second Temple period.

In recent years, the former chief archaeologist of Jerusalem has supervised the excavations of the Western Wall tunnel, the ancient subterranean passage that extends along the western perimeter of the Temple Mount.

A large water channel that was discovered in the tunnel has been accepted by many archaeologists as a Maccabean-built aqueduct and, according to Bahat, almost certainly is the most visible Maccabean relic in the Old City.

“This is the most important remain of Hasmonean Jerusalem today,” he said. “It’s an enormous ditch that was excavated from the surface in order to supply water to the fortress named Baris, which was the seat of the Maccabean family before they moved to a place in the area of today’s Jewish Quarter.”

The apocryphal Book of the Maccabees offers ample evidence that the legendary leaders of the Jewish revolt against the Greeks were great builders. As further evidence, Bahat cites the fine mosaics and frescoes excavated in various Maccabean palaces in Jericho.

But the Maccabees’ architectural footprint was almost fully erased in Jerusalem, especially on the Temple Mount, by King Herod’s massive construction projects.

Although the Book of the Maccabees relates that its heroes undertook projects to heighten the Temple Mount walls and remove a hill as a protective measure against the Greeks, there’s little chance of discovering even the slightest physical trace of these efforts, according to Bahat.

Without archaeological evidence, “it’s very difficult for us to decipher what exactly they have done,” he said. “But there’s no doubt the Maccabees greatly contributed” to the national “consciousness of the importance of the Temple. After the Maccabean period, there’s no question that the Temple was the center of Jewish life in all respects.”

He added, “The Maccabees made the Temple the most important thing in Jerusalem.”

In rebuilding the Temple, King Herod was guided by the measurements listed in the Book of Kings, but went beyond any scriptural references when it came to the Temple’s beautification.

“My question is, when he did all these works, where did he learn it from? What did he take it from? It must have been from the Maccabees,” Bahat said.

Born in 1938, Bahat grew up in the pre-state Yishuv at a time when Jewish access to the Old City of Jerusalem seemed a far-away dream. It was Professor Michael Ave-Yonah’s famous model of ancient Jerusalem in the Holy Land Hotel that first inspired him to study all available scriptures and texts about the Old City.

“I thought, ‘If he can do it, so can I,’ ” Bahat recalled. “I never imagined that I would ever really be in the Old City of Jerusalem, so I thought that at least theoretically, I could get to know it very well.”

He chose to specialize in the Second Temple period because the era marked “the apex of Jerusalem as a Jewish city,” he said. “Remember the saying, ‘The one who hasn’t seen Jerusalem hasn’t seen a beautiful city in his life.’ Or the other saying, ‘Of the 10 parts of beauty in the world, Jerusalem took nine.'”

When Bahat attained his bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University in 1964, Jerusalem still was divided and there was a paucity of literature in Hebrew about the Old City.

“Most of the study of Jerusalem was done by non-Jews, mainly by Christians interested in the city where Jesus walked,” he recalled.

The restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Old City in 1967 prompted an unprecedented boom of Jewish-led archaeological investigations.

“The result of that is that today our knowledge of Jerusalem has increased immensely,” Bahat said. “We can’t compare our knowledge of Jerusalem in 1967 to what we know today.”

Possibly the only authority anywhere on the topography of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, Bahat is a fervent nationalist and lover of history who knows many passages of scripture by heart but says he is not religiously observant.

Bahat has lectured to Christian groups around the world on Jerusalem in the time of Jesus and once was invited by Pope John Paul II to do so at the Vatican. He seems equally versed on Jerusalem in the eyes of Islam, and did his doctoral thesis on Jerusalem in the Crusader period.

During his 40 years as an archaeologist, Bahat has produced dozens of books and papers, including the well-known “Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem” and a popular illustrated volume two years ago on the Western Wall tunnel.

Although his specialty is Jerusalem, Bahat also has worked on many major archaeological digs in Israel, including the ancient synagogue in Beit Shean and the mountaintop fortress at Masada. It was at Masada that he made one of his most remarkable finds: a group of shards with Hebrew names on them, dating from the moment of the dramatic fall of the Jewish stronghold to the Romans in 73 C.E.

But Bahat continues to focus most of his scholarly attention on the city to which he has devoted much of his career.

“All my life is based on studying Jerusalem,” he said. “It’s a lifetime job, it’s not a simple thing. It’s a multifaceted city. The field is so complex and so complicated, but so interesting. So I’m kind of addicted to Jerusalem.”

 

Losing the War for the Temple Mount


While the military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues, there is one war the Jewish state appears to have lost — without even a struggle.

That is its claim to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s connection to the First and Second Temples as the holiest site in Judaism.

Though it is hard to imagine, the fact is that the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority that controls the Temple Mount (thanks to Israel’s post-Six-Day War beneficence), has been quietly and steadily undermining Jewish connections to the area without any serious protest by the Sharon government. Over a period of time, and more aggressively in the last two years, the Waqf has literally bulldozed away historical proof of Temple artifacts in the area, carrying out extensive excavations in violation of Israel’s antiquity laws. Clearly, the political goal of the Waqf is to remove evidence of any Jewish connection to the holy site and introduce Muslim ties as part of the Palestinian claim to Jerusalem as its capital.

Ian Stern, an American-born tour guide in Jerusalem, recently gave a series of lectures in the New York area, complete with photo slides, to call attention to the travesty of science, religion and history taking place in the Old City. He offered photos and other proof of the Waqf blatantly and illegally carting away thousands of tons of "debris" from the Temple area, some of which has been found to contain large columns and other relics dating back to the Temple period. He showed how the Waqf has paved over ancient stones indicating Israel’s ties to the spot and brought in water from Mecca to sanctify the site to Muslims. It is only a matter of time, he said, until the southern wall of the Temple Mount will collapse due to a water problem unless repairs are made.

As many in the audience expressed outrage and wonder, Stern patiently explained that, alas, this information is not new, and that the successive governments of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon have allowed these violations to continue without raising any serious objection, even though Israelis from left to right and secular to ultra-Orthodox are united in their outrage.

Why, Stern was asked repeatedly, does Israel allow this to go on, particularly in light of the symbolic and political ramifications of undoing the Jewish presence at the Temple Mount? For this he had no satisfying answer, nor do historians and politicians, other than the most obvious: that Israel is fearful of the international Muslim reaction if the Jewish authorities were to stop the Waqf’s illegal actions.

How else do you explain why protests are ignored from the Committee for the Prevention of the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, made up of prominent Israelis from all walks of life, including former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, leading archaeologists and academics, as well as legal experts and writers like A.B. Yehoshua. Also fruitless have been Knesset votes and a 1993 Supreme Court ruling citing numerous Waqf violations as illegal and historically harmful. Still no Israeli government has acted.

Surely one would think that international outrage could be focused on the Waqf’s activities: much as the world condemned the Taliban in Afghanistan several years ago for destroying ancient Buddhist columns of great historical value.

Perhaps one could argue that in the scheme of things in Israel today, with women and children being targeted and suicide bombers on the loose, raising a ruckus about the displacement or even destruction of old stones is not a priority. But on the contrary, the Waqf’s archaeological crimes speak to the heart of the conflict, of the Arab unwillingness to recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Old City and even to acknowledge Jewish historical ties to the land. How can there be parity and mutual respect between two ancient peoples sharing a land when the Arabs insist the Jews are modern-day usurpers who appeared a little more than 50 years ago on the scene and evicted them from their homes? The brazen refusal to admit that the Jewish people have historic ties to the land underscores the Arab emphasis on ideology over reality and hatred over compromise.

It is understandable why so many Jewish leaders, religious and otherwise, have second-guessed Moshe Dayan’s decision 35 years ago to cede control of the Temple Mount area to the Waqf as a Muslim holy site.

"Handing over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf was a major historic mistake over which generations will weep," noted Israel Meir Lau, Israel’s chief rabbi.

The only thing we can do is raise our voices about this matter, letting the Sharon government know that its uncharacteristic quiescence on this matter is unacceptable and harmful to Israel and Jewish history. We should be joined by historians, archaeologists, legal experts and others with a sense of fairness and a concern about the truth, putting pressure on the Waqf to cease their unholy quest to make the Temple Mount area historically Judenrein.

For centuries, Jews have prayed daily for the rebuilding of Jerusalem; the least we can do today is insist that our holiest site not be undermined.