An Israeli archaeologist recently confirmed the discovery made three years ago.
An Israeli archaeologist revealed recently that excavations conducted within the Al Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem had three years ago uncovered, what could be a Muslim prayer room.
In an article published last month on the Israel Antiques Authority Website, Jerusalem district archaeologist Yuval Baruch described the ruins that he said were discovered after excavation work began around the site following a 2004 snowstorm that damaged a ramp leading to the compound.
“In 2004, when the Mughrabi ramp collapsed, a small room was discovered which contained an alcove covered with a dome, a kind of Muslim prayer niche, facing south. Some suggest that these are the remains of a prayer room that was part of a madrasa which operated near the Mughrabi gate.”
Authority officials said that the article was published around the same time that the project to rebuild the ramp began.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Baruch said that the authority had decided not to announce the existence of the room earlier since it was still not clear what it was. He explained that finds in and around the room needed further research before authorities could say exactly what the room had been used for.
However, Muslim leaders and opponents of the excavation project reacted angrily to the news, claiming that the three-year delay in the announcement confirmed their fears that Israel’s Antiquities Authority was intent on hiding Muslim attachment to the site.
Adnan Hussein, chairman of the Muslim Council that oversees affairs at the holy site, reacted to the news, saying: “We didn’t hear anything about this. They (Israeli authorities) are always hiding things.”
Similarly, activists for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem said that the delay in announcing the archaeological find proved that the Antiquities Authority had not been truthful. “This coincides with the way they act,” said Amos Gil of Ir Amim, an Israeli group that promotes coexistence in Jerusalem. “They don’t want to find all the ruins, just the Jewish ones.”
The compound is known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif and to the Jews as Temple Mount. The site which houses the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is the third holiest site in Islam.
(Daily Times, Pakistan)