Israeli Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) sounded the alarm on Monday after the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf began earthworks on the Temple Mount, saying those excavations could inflict irreparable harm on Second Temple artifacts.
The Waqf, which has day-to-day control of the Temple Mount, said it planned to re-carpet the Muslim shrine known as the Dome of the Rock. Ariel fears the activity would result in excessive excavation, a concern exacerbated by the fact that heavy machinery is being used.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel asked that the government “order an immediate halt to the earthworks to allow a proper review and authorization process.”
“These works are unprecedented and warrant the review of the Ministerial Committee on Archeological Digs at Holy Sites, and the fact that there is heavy machinery involved makes this all the more pressing,” Ariel wrote.
He added, “There is no need to elaborate on how important this site is, where every modification, every excavation with heavy equipment can cause irreparable harm to the foundations of the Temple.”
Tensions over the Temple Mount have escalated in the last year, as Jewish activists fight for the right to have wider Jewish worship at the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.