Last week, a broken flagstone on the Temple Mount revealed a tunnel, approximately two feet square, descending several yards where it seems to join up with a larger tunnel. The entrance is located in the southern end of the Temple Mount, between the Aqsa Mosque and the Mughrabi Gate.
Assaf Fried, the spokesman for the Temple Organizations, said that last Wednesday, the tunnel was revealed.
“The Waqf is being very secretive about the existence of the tunnel but to all appearances, a vehicle or construction equipment broke through the paving stone,” Fried told Breaking Israel News. He noted that the Muslim Authority frequently carries out illegal construction projects that are destructive to the artifacts at the site. Much of this is with the intention of erasing archaeological proof of the historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
“Little by little, Jews going up to the site became aware of the tunnel,” Fried said. Fried notified the police and for the time being, the Waqf is being prevented from fixing the site. It is feared that they will simply fill the hole with concrete, sealing off the tunnel forever. “The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has yet to investigate the tunnel.
“This could be nothing, a 200-year-old sewer or a water cistern, but it could possibly be part of a tunnel complex that was part of the Temple, perhaps even leading to tunnels from the First Temple,” Fried noted. “We simply don’t know but if it is left in the hands of the Waqf, we never will know.”
Fried noted that this section of the Temple Mount was added by King Herod and much of it is landfill honeycombed with underground features. The el-Marwani Mosque was established in Solomon’s Stables, a huge underground space in the southern end of the Temple Mount that can accommodate over ten thousand worshippers.
“It is absolutely essential that the public demand that the Waqf be prevented from destroying this irreplaceable artifact,” Fried emphasized. “The law requires that this be dealt with under the supervision of the archeology authorities but unless the public demands it, this will disappear and the Waqf will claim that neither this tunnel nor the Temple ever existed.”
Dr. Zachi Dvira, an Israeli archaeologist from Bar-Ilan University, confirmed that the shaft was from the Second Temple Period.
“This is from the part of the Temple Mount that Herod added later,” Dr. Dvira said. “It was part of the Temple Complex, though not part of the Temple itself.”
Dr. Dvira co-directs the Temple Mount Sifting Project which began in 2004 to recover archaeological artifacts contained within debris removed from the Temple Mount without proper archaeological care during illegal construction carried out by the Waqf. In 1999, approximately 9,000 tons of archaeologically-rich soil were removed from the Temple Mount by the Waqf, using heavy earth moving equipment and without a preceding salvage excavation or proper archaeological care, following works in and around the newly constructed underground el-Marwani Mosque.
Despite his vast experience with Waqf destruction of Temple Mount artifacts, Dr. Dvira was confident that the newly discovered tunnel would not suffer the same fate.
“This is a hugely important discovery,” Dr. Dvira said. “I do not think that the Israeli government will allow it to be destroyed. Today, there is better supervision preventing destruction on the Temple Mount. This is an opportunity that Israel really needs to investigate. Jordan and the Waqf oppose archaeology being carried out on the Temple Mount because it is an act of sovereignty at the site. So we may not carry out initiated research but it will probably not be destroyed.”
Rabbi Harry Moskoff, the award-winning producer of producer and writer of “The ARK Report”, is intimately familiar with the Jewish traditions describing the underground structures located on the Temple Mount. Last week, by chance, he was visiting the Mount of Olives overlooking the site and noted a large dump-truck parked precisely where the shaft is now open. The presence of the dump truck represented undeniable evidence that the Waqf was conducting illegal construction at the site. He conjectured that the weight of the truck may have been the cause of the shaft being revealed.
“The timing is totally divinely influenced,” Moskoff said. “After thousands of years, suddenly this hole opened up. The Waqf is clearly doing illegal digging and this may lead to them being stopped.”
In his book, Rabbi Moskoff describes the Jewish traditions of underground tunnels. One such tunnel is quite close to where the shaft just opened. Leading from the Temple to the southern gate, it was used by priests who became impure and needed to leave the Temple Mount quickly.
“This shaft could be an entrance or it could be an air-shaft or light-shaft,” he said.
Rabbi Moskoff noted that according to Jewish literature, King Solomon created a chamber directly under the Holy of Holies when making his temple intended to house the Ark of the Covenant. He also noted that in 2015, when changing the carpets in the Well of the Souls under the Dome of the rock, a mosaic was discovered covering a shaft similar in size and shape to the shaft that was uncovered last week. The work was carried out without any archaeological oversight and it is unknown whether anything was removed or damaged.
In his book, Moskoff described how the former Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Yehudah Getz, believed that the Ark of the Covenant was still hidden in its specially prepared chamber under the Holy of Holies, where the Dome of the Rock now stands. The leader of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tried to dissuade Rabbi Getz from searching for the Ark but in 1981, he attempted to enter the underground tunnel complex. Teddy Kollek, the anti-religious mayor of Jerusalem at the time, tipped off the Waqf and Rabbi Getz was met with Arab mobs.
“Even though they have an agenda that is not Biblically driven, the IAA should be intensely interested in this new development,” Rabbi Moskoff said. He noted that the next logical step would be to send down a camera on a remote-controlled device.
“But eventually, they will need to send down a person and that person will need to be a Kohen (descendant of Aaron the Priest and a member of the priestly caste), Moskoff noted. “I would like to officially submit my candidacy as a volunteer.”