Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz
The Temple Mount has been the scene of several strange phenomena recently; large sections of the ancient stones suddenly falling away, an inexplicable mist that surrounded the Dome of the Rock, a snake crawling out from between the rocks, and now, a sinkhole has appeared adjacent to the Gate of Mercy.
Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount is severely limited and the sections of the compound which Jews are permitted to visit are likewise restricted. As such, changes that occur on site are not always immediately noticed.
Though the Temple Mount is a bit removed from the geologically active Jordan Rift, a pre-Messiah earthquake is prophesied to drastically change the topography of Jerusalem.
On that day, He will set His feet on the Mount of Olives, near Yerushalayim on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall split across from east to west, and one part of the Mount shall shift to the north and the other to the south, a huge gorge. Zechariah 14:4
It may be that this dramatic geologic development has already begun. About one month ago, Jews going up to the Temple Mount began to notice a change in the sidewalk adjacent to the area of the stairs going down to Sha’ar HaRachamim (the Gate of Mercy), or Golden Gate as it is known in Christian literature. The sidewalk had sunk visibly and the was cracking as if the ground was opening up underneath the paving stones.
The location is highly significant. The gate is described in the prophecy as the gate through which the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) used to appear and will appear again when the Anointed One (Messiah) comes to enter the Third Temple.
And Hashem said to me: This gate is to be kept shut and is not to be opened! No one shall enter by it because Hashem, the God of Yisrael, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince may sit in it and eat bread before Hashem, since he is a prince; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall depart by the same way. Ezekiel 44:2-3
The gate was sealed by the Muslims in 810 CE, opened by the Crusaders in 1102 CE, and sealed again by Suleiman in 1541 CE. It has been conjectured by scholars that the motivation for sealing the gate was a Muslim attempt to prevent the arrival of the Messiah.
Rabbi Yosef Berger, rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion and a member of the nascent Sanhedrin, believes he may have had a hand in the recent underground activities leading to the sinking sidewalk.
“Just before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), the Sanhedrin stood outside the Sha’ar HaRachamim and blew shofars,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “We wanted to do something, anything, to help bring geula (redemption) closer. The connection between the Temple Mount and the Jewish people is a strong connection, like between a husband and wife. Perhaps the mountain heard us.”
Rabbi Berger explained that the spiritual effort was deeply moving, for the Sanhedrin and perhaps for the mountain as well, but it was not especially pleasant. In addition to sealing the gate, the Muslims have established a cemetery in front of the gate in an attempt to prevent the Messiah from entering.
Of course, it may be that the broken flagstones are the result of less spiritual developments.
“The level that we now walk on is several meters above what was ground level in Temple Times,” Yaakov Hayman, chairman of the United Temple Movements, told Breaking Israel News. “It is all landfill. No one knows what is underground.”
Unfortunate political realities make it unlikely that any real knowledge of what lies underground will ever be known. This was epitomized by the wanton destruction caused when the Waqf built the El-Marwani Mosque in the so-called Solomon’s Stables located in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount.
In the early 1990’s. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu began to advocate the construction of a synagogue on the Temple Mount in Solomon’s Stables. The large underground space, constructed by King Herod, was empty. It seemed like an ideal solution, allowing Jewish access that was separate from the Muslim entrances. But the rabbi’s call for a synagogue was followed by the Waqf converting the space into a mosque capable of hosting 10,000 worshippers. The construction was in gross violation of the status quo and all agreements with the Israeli government, using heavy equipment in a site that was archaeologically significant. The construction greatly weakened the southern wall of the Temple Mount, requiring massive and unsightly repairs.
About 350 truckloads of earth was taken from the site and dumped in the Kidron Valley. In a June 2000 interview with the Jerusalem Post, the chief waqf archeologist said that his colleagues examined the material taken out of the site “either before or after the excavation” and “found nothing of special interest.” In 2004, Professor Gabriel Barkay began the Temple Mount Temple Sifting Project, laboriously searching through the dirt. Barkay has succeeded in recovering countless artifacts from the Jewish Temple including a partial reconstruction of a tile floor.
“The Waqf still works with large machinery on the Temple Mount,” Barkay told Breaking Israel News. “There may be an empty space underneath but in any case, the soil is very soft and not suited for heavy equipment. We tried to get the government to prevent this but they did not answer our requests.”
As the spokesman for the Temple Mount activist organization Yera’eh, Elishama Sandman, is privy to the details of what takes place on and around the Temple Mount.
“The earth is certainly moving under the Temple Mount,” Sandman told Breaking Israel News. “It is impossible to say whether this is from geological changes or illegal construction. In the same way, it is impossible to rule out divine causes. The Waqf won’t let any scientists or archaeologists investigate. And certainly no rabbis. But it is clear that something is happening there.”
Sandman described past attempts to deal with infrastructure on the Temple Mount in which complaints were bounced between the municipal government, the Israeli government, and the police.
“While the officials argued about who should take care of it, the Waqf dug,” Sandman said.