Israel denies Temple Mount excavation

(Gold9472: Everyone remember the "Dome Of The Rock"?


Israel dismissed as "blatant lies" and "preposterous and unfounded allegations" claims voiced by the top Muslim religious authority in Jerusalem and the firebrand leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel Tuesday that Israel built a synagogue and was trying to destroy a mosque on the Temple Mount by its recently-completed construction of a visitor's center near the Western Wall.

Islamic leaders have been fuming for weeks now over Israel's recent construction of the visitor's center, adjacent to the Western Wall tunnels, angered over the project which highlights Judaism's connection to Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

The lavish new state of the art tourist center at the Western Wall tunnels incorporates ancient and modern Jewish history and includes an elaborate sound and light show that highlight both recent discoveries of artifacts and infrastructure dating back thousands of years.

The high-tech center, which aims to link the past with the future in an effort to reach out to Israeli youth, includes one of the world's oldest aqueducts, a ritual bath from the Second Temple period, a First Temple wall, as well as exhibits on modern day Jewish history, such as the Holocaust and Israel's fallen soldiers.

The top Muslim clergyman, or mufti, of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, on Tuesday called the archaeological project an "aggression" that threatened the mosque compound and demanded an immediate end to the digs.

"These violations and aggression lead to tension in the region," he said at a Jerusalem press conference.

Sheik Raed Salah, a radical leader of Israel's Islamic Movement, who was freed from prison last year after serving a two year sentence for a series of security offenses including financing Hamas activities called the construction a "black stain" on Israel and accused the government of plotting to destroy the mosques to build a new temple.

Salah who heads the extremist northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israeli Arabs which denies Israel's legitimacy has repeatedly warned supporters in the past that "Al-Aksa is in danger" and that Israeli extremists intended to attack the mosque at the Jerusalem holy site.

"These are lies, and there is nothing behind what they are saying," Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch said Tuesday.

"Archaeological excavations have never been carried out, and are not being carried out today, under the Temple Mount compound," Israel's Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

Though nearby, the visitor's center is hundreds of meters away from the Temple Mount compound.

The Islamic leaders' tirade comes just weeks after the Palestinian Authority's official website lambasted the construction project in a report that called into question Judaism's very connection to Jerusalem.