Oct 05, 2022
Share this article

A video has surfaced on social media showing a tunnel that runs under the flagstones of the Temple Mount Plaza.

The tunnel is shallow, directly under the stones, and neglected, full of garbage. The background music implies that the video was taken by an Arab in the area of the Aqsa Mosque on the Southern end of the Temple Mount.

Dr. Gabriel Barkay, head of the Sifting Project, was familiar with the story behind the tunnel.

“This tunnel was dug in 2007 to lay electrical cables and water pipes,” Dr. Barkay said. “It is approximately 500 meters long. It was dug under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority.”

Tzachi Dvira, who co-heads the Temple Mount Sifting Project, noted that such tunnels are found in several sections of the Temple Mount.

“The tunnels are for drainage,” he noted. “There is nothing nefarious. These were done under the supervision of the IAA, but even when the Waqf does projects like this, it is all under the eyes of the Israeli police. The government is aware of these projects.”

Though this is clearly true, this does not negate the destruction caused by Waqf projects. The Sifting Project began in 1999 when the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted illegal renovations on the Temple Mount and disposed of over 9,000 tons of dirt mixed with invaluable archaeological artifacts. Israeli antiquities law requires a salvage excavation before construction at archaeological sites. However, this illegal bulldozing destroyed innumerable artifacts: veritable treasures that would have provided a rare glimpse of the region’s rich history. The earth and the artifacts within were dumped as garbage in the nearby Kidron Valley.

In September 2020, a heavy truck broke the flagstone on the Temple Mount, revealing a two-foot square tunnel, approximately two feet square, descending several yards where it joined up with a giant tunnel. Dr. Dvira believed the tunnel was from the period of the Second Temple and perhaps even earlier. The Waqf responded by filling the tunnel with concrete and destroying whatever artifacts were there.

The Temple was built above the mountain’s ground level, supported by stones and arches. Many of the underground chambers and tunnels were used for the Temple. One series of tunnels extends beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount, used by Kohanim, who became ritually impure and needed to leave the holy site quickly. The Ark of the Covenant is believed to be hidden in one of these unexplored chambers.

Excavations by British surveyors in 1865 led by Charles Wilson and four years later by Captain Charles Warren revealed a system of underground tunnels and cisterns underneath the Temple Mount complex. To this day, these tunnels have remained largely unexplored.