Hadash calls for urgent Knesset debate on Jerusalem excavation
The Hadash-Ta'al Knesset faction has requested an urgent debate in the Knesset Interior Committee following the report published in today's Hebrew edition of Haaretz magazine on excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is carrying out in Jerusalem's Old City.
The IAA, which is carrying out the excavation for the Ateret Kohanim association, has dug 12 meters into the foundations of a Jewish-owned building in the Muslim Quarter, 80 meters from the Temple Mount, and has progressed about 20 meters to the east under other buildings, toward the Temple Mount.
Experts have warned that the deep excavation, commissioned by the Everest Foundation, which is owned by the family of major Ateret Kohanim contributor Irwin Moskowitz, may endanger surrounding buildings.
The director of the Jerusalem district of the IAA, Jon Seligman, said Ateret Kohanim decides how deep the dig will go, and that it may reach a depth of 18 meters, since Ateret Kohanim has asked the IAA to dig down to the bedrock.
Seligman said excavation to the east "has ended for the time being." He also said he had not heard about a possibility that the dig would link up to the Western Wall Tunnel. However, sources involved in the excavation said they had heard from its directors that this was the case. Attorney Eitan Geva, who represents the owner of the building, said the intention is to build a museum at the site where finds discovered during the excavation would be displayed. Eitan said the excavation to the east involved clearing out a channel that had been discovered, to ascertain whether it endangered the building's foundation, and that after the earth was removed, it was sealed. There was no intention to use it or continue digging eastward, Eitan added.
By law, householders must be informed of any plans to excavate beneath their homes. However it appears no such notice was given to the residents of the homes under which the channel was excavated. Residents claim the dig has damaged their homes and the surrounding areas.