- Mr P. Eliav, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Mr U. Manor, Deputy Director of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Mrs A.M. Lambert-Finckler, Ambassador, former Director of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Mrs Vered, Adviser for Jerusalem to the Minister of Foreign Affairs;
- Mr Minerbi, Inspector-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Mr Gabai, Director-General of the Ministry of Justice;
- Mr U. Hasson, Deputy Attorney-General;
- Mr T. Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem;
- Mr S. Ovnat, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem;
- Mr M. Zylka, Adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem;
- Mr Y. Yaacobi, Director of the Jerusalem Development Company;
- Mr N. Kidron, Engineering Adviser to the Ministry of Religious Affairs;
- Mr D. Bahat, Chief Archaeologist of the City of Jerusalem;
- Mr N. Avigad, Professor at the Hebrew University;
- Mr Y. Shilo, Professor at the Hebrew University;
- Mr P. Bugod, architect;
- Mr D. Cassouto, architect;
- Mr Rachmaninov, architect;
- Mr F. Hazine, Director of the Waqf in Jerusalem;
- Mr Y. Natsheh, Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology;
- Mr Y. Awad, Resident Architect of the Al-Aqsa Restoration Committee;
- Mr A. Husseini, architect of the Waqf;
- Mr K. Salameh, Director of the Al-Aqsa Library;
Except for the attempted attack on the Haram al-Sharif, few new problems have arisen as regards the safeguarding of the architectural heritage of Jerusalem since my last visit from 13 to 16 October 1983. A number of questions raised in the previous reports can be considered no longer relevant.
3. The attempted attack of the Haram al-Sharif
During the night of 26-27 January 1984, the guards at the Haram al-Sharif discovered within its precincts a batch of explosives and weapons left behind by a group of people who fled the scene. Over the next few days the Israeli police arrested twenty-seven people involved in this new attempted attack on the Islamic sanctuaries of the Haram. Mr Gabal, Director-General of the Ministry of Justice, and Mr U. Hasson, Deputy Attorney-General, gave me the following information on the state of the investigations and the legal action taken by the Israeli judicial authorities. According to this information, there was a complex and far-reaching plot aimed among other things at blowing up the mosques of Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. For this purpose, weapons and explosives had been stolen from the army. The conspiracy was in fact not new; it appears to have begun shortly after the visit of President Sadat to Jerusalem and the intention had been to put it into effect before the return of Sinai to Egypt.
A number of factors delayed the implementation of the plot including fears on the part of some concerning the international consequences of such an act. The strengthening of the Israeli guard at the entrance to the Haram following the attack carried out by Alan Goodman on 13 April 1982 made it more difficult to execute, and there were apprehensions among the conspirators at having to shoot at Israeli soldiers. Moreover, rumours of possible attacks had led the Israeli Government to strengthen the guard around the Haram still further.
The government takes an extremely serious view of this matter. All those involved have been arrested. Two of the conspirators, who pleaded guilty, have already been sentenced - one to ten years’ imprisonment, the other to sixty months. The trial of those who have not pleaded guilty will begin next September.
4. The excavations
4.1 The tunnel dug, under the auspices of the Religious Affairs authorities, beneath the Arab properties along the western wall of the Haram al-Sharif is in the same state as on my previous visit in November 1983, except for the fact that consolidation work using reinforced concrete has been carried out along three-quarters of the section dug during 1982 and 1983. This work has been supervised by the engineer N. Kidron and appears to have been solidly carried out in accordance with correct engineering procedures. It will probably be completed in two months’ time. The tunnel’s present length, from the arcade under the Al-Madrasa Al-Tankiziyya, is, according to Mr N. Kidron, 305 metres.
A new and very important element in this situation is the decision taken by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Religious Affairs to halt all work in the tunnel, except that required for consolidation and maintenance purposes. Following my last visit to the site, the Director-General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs had ordered a halt to the work. That order was confirmed by the Ministerial decision reported in the journal ‘Haaretz’ of 22 April 1984. The decision was taken following energetic representations by Mr T. Kollek, Mayor of the City, to the authorities concerned after serious damage had been detected in the Al-Madrasa Al-Manjakiyya, the headquarters of the Islamic Council of Jerusalem, which is situated above a section of the tunnel dug in 1983.
As was to be expected, the digging of the new section of the tunnel has caused movements in the mass of rubble and filling material extending to a height of some nine metres above the Roman soil level followed by the excavation. The same phenomenon had already occurred following the digging of the first part of the tunnel, which is at the root of the settlement and cracks to be found in a number of buildings constructed above, some of which form part of the fundamental Islamic heritage of Jerusalem. Of these, the Al-Madrasa Al-Jawhariyya and the Al-Kurd Hospice were the subject of comments in most of my reports in the period 1971 to 1976. I pointed out last November that movement was taking place in the Al-Madrasa Al-Manjakiyya, among other places in the great staircase and in certain walls and vaults. Since then, some of the cracks have worsened. More serious still is the collapse last April of part of the staircase; some of the steps have fallen into a hollow created by the movement of the soil above the tunnel. The Al-Madrasa Al-Manjakiyya is situated above a widened section of the tunnel which at that point incorporates some high H cisterns whose vaulting was considerably weakened and therefore constitutes a fragile infrastructure for the building above it. Since the level at which the tunnel was dug remained constant, the result is that at certain points the earth has been excavated well below the walls of cisterns. These therefore rest on banked-up rubble which, though well compacted, is cut off vertically in the plane of the walls. I noted this very dangerous situation in November 1983 and at that time issued a serious warning about it. Since then everything has been consolidated by a reinforced concrete sheathing. In my opinion, the structure of the tunnel is now solid and there is no danger of the building above it collapsing. However, it is very probable that slight movements will continue to cause cracks in the edifice for some time to come, probably for several years. The case of the Al-Madrasa A1-Jawhariyya, to which I shall return later, is a good example of such a process.
The staircase has been repaired according to correct engineering procedures and the entire building is under observation. Proposals for consolidation have already been made by Mr Kidron: they are completely inadequate from the structural point of view. In addition, they take no account of the fact that the Madrasa is a historical monument and that any work done should follow the rules prescribed for such edifices. But, from the point of view of stability and security, there appears to be no urgency. It is preferable to wait until the probable movement of the subsoil has stopped. In the interim, it would be advisable to carry out a complete expert survey of the building, and, depending on the results of such a survey possibly some temporary works. Given the importance of the building both as a monument and because of its symbolic significance (as the headquarters of the Islamic Council), I think it desirable that the survey should be carried out by a specialist engineer acceptable to both parties - the Waqf and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is responsible for the damage. In view of the tense atmosphere between the parties concerned, it is unlikely that an Israeli engineer would be acceptable to the Arab side. The choice of a foreign specialist would therefore seem to be the best solution. His report, describing the state of the building in detail, would serve as a reference document for the future; it should also contain whatever suggestions were necessary to ensure the stability of the building in the short term.
The idea of a survey seems to have been accepted on both the Israeli and the Waqf sides. The Israeli authorities favour the appointment of an engineer from the Technical University of Haifa. For the reasons given above, it is desirable that they should accept without delay the appointment of a foreign engineer, preferably an English speaker.
No precise chart of the tunnel, other than a partial surface map, seems to exist at present. This map does not show the location of the buildings above. Several requests have been made for a series of vertical cross-sections of the tunnel and the buildings above to be drawn. Such cross-sections would make for a better understanding of the processes taking place in certain buildings and would make it possible to identify in advance danger zones where precautionary measures should be taken. It is strongly recommended that such cross-sections be drawn up as soon as possible.
It has also been frequently suggested that those in charge of the tunnel should invite the Waqf engineers, Messrs A. Husseini and I. Awad, to inspect the tunnel and the substructure at the foot of the southern wall of the Haram at least once a year in their company. Such an inspection would help to clarify the situation and would ease the tensions surrounding the question of the tunnel and possible extensions under the Haram. When I spoke about this question with Minister Y. Burg on 6 April 1983, I believed that the principle of such an inspection had been accepted. However, it has not been authorized at the time of writing.
It is regrettable that the tunnelling, which constitutes an excavation in the deep subsoil of Jerusalem, has not been monitored by an experienced archaeologist. While not directing the work, which is in principle regrettable and can only be condemned, he could have been responsible for recording in scholarly fashion the archaeological information yielded by the subsoil. Now that the archaeological remains exposed by the digging have been covered for ever by concrete reinforcements, whole pages of the ancient history of Jerusalem may be lost for all time.
4.2 The work on the Ophel hill is practically complete. It consisted not so much of fresh excavations as of the cleaning, consolidation and presentation to good effect of the remains of the first Jerusalem wall brought to light by Kathleen Kenyon in 1961-1967. The area excavated by her has been slightly enlarged, mainly on the land acquired during the British mandate by the Rothschild family. Professor Y. Shilo, who directed the work, confirmed to me that no fresh excavation is planned on this site. According to him the whole operation, including removal of the unstable rubble, is coming to a close.
A system for monitoring the stability of the most critical area has been set up. Several clinometers have been installed on the slopes of the hill, which will make it possible in future to keep a check on any movements of old excavation rubble left in situ and to take action where necessary.
4.3 The second-century Roman remains at the Damascus Gate have been entirely uncovered. They can be reached beneath a concrete apron on which are laid the tiles of the small square within the walls behind the gate. New shops have been constructed and others renovated in this busy Arab commercial area. The Damascus Gate excavations were begun during the British mandate. The interiors of the flanking towers, one of which contains an Umayyad oil mill, have been cleared out over the last five years and the work is complete.
4.4 At the present time, it is to be noted that all the excavations have been halted inside and in the vicinity of the old city of Jerusalem. Except for the tunnel near the Haram al-Sharif, where work resumed two years ago after an interruption of nearly ten years, no notable excavation has been carried out since 1979. Since then, only occasional soundings connected with infrastructure or safety work have been made in the city.
For the first time, a governmental decision to halt excavations has been taken. It has the digging of the ‘tunnel’ in view. Furthermore, no other excavations are announced for other sites. What is new is the statement that no further excavations will be carried out on the Ophel site, where it was previously feared that a vast plan was going to be carried out in addition to the clearance work necessary for safety reasons.
5. The work on providing amenities and public areas is continuing in the old city but is proceeding more slowly than before. It chiefly comprises:
5.1 The renewal of sewers and pavings. Since November 1983 the work has been mainly taking place in the Christian quarters of the city, between the Holy Sepulchre and the Damascus Gate. As in every other part of the city, the new paving consists of slabs of natural Jerusalem stone. In several places, parts of the Roman paving discovered when the sewers were being renewed have been brought up to the present street level. Throughout the Armenian and Christian quarters, the television aerials have been removed and replaced by a cable distribution system.
5.2 The establishment of the green belt around the Wall of Süleyman the Magnificent is being completed. Work has been under way since 1968 and has consisted mainly of clearing rubble, uncovering the wall to its original height and, possibly, the rock on which it rests, planting trees and shrubs and, in the southern part where the wall runs through the City of Herod which extended well beyond the present limits, carrying out excavations described in many previous reports. All these excavations were halted several years ago except for a recent sounding between the Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate, where fragments of the glacis which protected the city wall in Crusader times have been brought to light.
6. Birkat Israel. Public works on this site, which covers the location of one of the largest open-air water cisterns of the ancient city, is at present a cause of tension between the municipality and the Waqf. The cistern was filled in at the beginning of the century and its site is now occupied by a car-park and by temporary UNRWA huts. The whole area looks extremely shabby. The Waqf, which is the owner of this site, and the municipality are in agreement over the need to do something about it since the site is in the neighbourhood of the Lion Gate used by millions of Muslim and Christian pilgrims. Talks are under way between the two parties on a project to satisfy both. As the Waqf leaders see it, it is important that property and tenure rights should in no way be called in question. They therefore consider that the plan approved by both parties must be carried out by them and at their expense. They also consider, rightly, that this work should show the inspiration of Islamic art.
7. The Al-Madrasa Al-Jawhariyya has been regularly examined by me since 1971. It will be remembered that the building, which dates from the fourteenth century, stands over the oldest section of the tunnel and its stability has been seriously impaired in recent years. The ground appeared to be stabilized but in the past few months, new movements have been observed which have caused the subsidence of a number of stone courses at the base of the wall supporting the covered passageway to Ribat Kurt. The recent ground movement caused by the digging of the tunnel, nearly ten years after the placing of permanent supports, shows how dangerous this type of work is, even when carried out with care, and how long the stabilization period can be after ground has been disturbed by excavations. This leads one to be cautious in assessing the extent of the damage caused to buildings.
The Al-Madrasa Al-JaWhariyya was given temporary strengthening a few years ago. The work was causing a very crude technique,which although it did indeed stabilize the building, also led to extensive damage to the interior, chiefly in the upper rooms where the walls were reinforced with substantial concrete slabs to which the masonry outside was tied. Things cannot stay as they are, because this can in no way be described as the full and scientific restoration of the building that those responsible for the damage agreed to undertake. When the mayor of the city was informed of this, he decided to open talks with the Waqf and the Ministry of Religious Affairs so that the restoration can be undertaken without delay, by acknowledged specialists in co-operation with the architects of the Waqf.
8. The Citadel is one of the chief monuments of Jerusalem. It comprises elements of widely varying date, extending from the Hasmonean era to the Ottoman era. Major excavations have been carried out at various periods within the great central courtyard. The most recent were carried out in 1968-1969 under the direction of A. Amiran and A. Eytan. They brought to light many substructures, frequently of great interest from the point of view of the history of the site and the city. These remains have not been covered over but have been strengthened and partially restored. They give an appearance of clutter and seriously detract from the monumental form and indeed from the architectural comprehensibility of the Citadel. The present arrangement is thus scarcely advantageous to the building. It would be desirable for a scheme more consonant with the site to be studied and put into effect. This might be provided by a concrete platform coinciding with the original soil levels at the time of the construction of the Citadel and covering the most interesting parts of the excavations, which would still be accessible to specialists. An outline in natural materials of different colours, set into the paving of the courtyard, would give visitors to the monument an idea of its archaeological history.
9. Work on the Haram al-Sharif
9.1 Restoration work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque is continuing. The restoration of the cupola has been completed and is of very high quality. The mosaics on the great arcades and pendentives need to be consolidated and restored. It is very much hoped that the help of an expert on the restoration of ancient mosaics will be available before the work is undertaken. Expert advice is also required for the covering of the exterior of the dome with lead plates. These have been reconstituted to the original measurements, using old lead. There is, however, no worker specialized in laying this type of covering available on site to teach local workers the techniques involved.
9.2 The restoration of the Dome of the Chain is being studied. The twelfth-century ceramic tiles have been carefully removed.
9.3 The restoration of the Golden Gate is nearing completion. The building has been cleaned and repainted with lime grouting. The work has been carried out in compliance with normal standards. It is perhaps regrettable, however, that the ancient flagstone paving should have been repointed with dark grey cement. From the technical standpoint, this is no doubt a good idea since cement mortar is more resistant, but the result is aesthetically unpleasing.
9.4 I revisited the Stables of Solomon which are one of the most remarkable sites in the Haram al-Sharif. The derelict state of the huge underground vaults is distressing. They have been taken over by the pigeons, which are the cause of damage resulting not only from soiling by a thick layer of droppings but also from the action of harmful salts deriving from those excrements, which may eventually endanger the stones of the building.
10. The Department of Islamic Antiquities of the Waqf is pursuing the task of drawing up a systematic inventory of the Islamic monuments of the Old City. This inventory includes very exact, large-scale architectural drawings of the most outstanding buildings. Several dozen monuments have been most carefully surveyed in this way.
11. Cleaning, consolidation and conservation work has just been started at the Al-Madrasa Al-Kilaniyya, one of the most important Mameluke monuments of the lower city. The programme of work as outlined to me by Mr Natsheh, is indicative of well-advised caution, in the absence of the specialized work-force required to embark on proper restoration work on a monument of this nature.
12. Considerable efforts have been made in recent months by Mr K. Salaineh, the Director of the Al-Aqsa Library. A great many manuscripts have been microfilmed and two catalogues published. There can be no doubt, however, that the situation remains critical as regards the state of conservation of many manuscripts suffering damage from mould and insects. According to Mr Salameh, the situation is equally disquieting in other depositories in the city. No equipment or specialized staff are available locally to give the works the necessary treatment. Urgent measures are required if basic source material concerning the history of Jerusalem is to be saved. In that connection, it might perhaps be desirable to consider the possibility of bringing all the Arab manuscripts of Jerusalem together centrally in one of the buildings of the Haram, which should be equipped for the treatment and conservation of books. Given the humid conditions in all the ancient buildings on the site, the equipment required would certainly need to include an adequate air-conditioning plant. The purchase of equipment for treating the books and the training of specialized staff are both matters of great urgency. A report on the question was drawn up in April 1983 by Mr G. Brannahi, President of the International Association of Archives, Library and Graphic Art Restorers.
13. A Museum of Palestinian Folk Arts and Folklore was established in 1979 in the Islamic Cultural Centre in Jerusalem. It is being most devotedly managed by Mrs Z Husseini. Many traditional costumes and everyday objects or things used in crafts which have disappeared or are disappearing have been assembled there. The museum has no proper basic equipment and is short of specialized staff more particularly for the conservation and restoration of fabrics. The curator’s task is made very difficult by the fact that the museum has no independent financial resources. There can, however, be no doubt that the establishment of this museum was timely, since the very radical changes that are at present taking place in the Arab society of Jerusalem seem likely to result, very shortly, in the disappearance of many customs, particularly as regards traditional costumes and domestic equipment. It is important for the history of Arab culture in Jerusalem that evidence of these should be preserved.
Professor R.M. LEMAIRE
4 August 1984’