A bulge in the wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount may ignite a huge battle between Palestinians and Jews. This area is the holiest site in Judaism and is the only part that is left of the Temple Mount that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Muslim mosque called the Dome of the Rock now sits on the site of the ancient temple. Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert says, “There are serious grounds for the apprehension that it could collapse. In my view, we have reached the moment of truth.”

“I can’t say when, but it is certain that the wall will fall if nothing is done about it,” says Israeli conservationist Giora Solar, who thinks the wall should be dismantled and rebuilt. But Muslim religious authorities, who control the area, say there is no danger of collapse and reject the Israeli warnings as politically motivated.

Adnan Husseini, director-general of the Muslim trust that administers Islamic sites in Jerusalem, says they won?t tolerate any outside interference from Israel. “This bulge is under our monitoring since the ’70s,? he says. ?It is stable. We don’t feel that there is any dangerous situation. The Israeli side is trying to make from this problem a very dangerous political issue. They want to gain a foothold.”

Shuka Dorfman, the head of Israel’s Antiquities Authority, says the bulge can be seen in photographs taken in the early part of the 20th century, but has become worse in recent years. While Israel claims sovereignty over the Mount since capturing it in the 1967 Mideast war, it has left control to the Muslims. Any attempt by Israel to assert its authority there will draw strong reactions from Palestinians and from Muslims worldwide, since the Dome of the Rock is the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina.

The Temple Mount was built by King Solomon on a hilltop 3,000 years ago to house the first Jewish temple. King Herod expanded it 1,000 years later and rebuilt the temple, and this was the temple Jesus visited. The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. 600 years later, Arabs conquered Jerusalem and built on the Dome of the Rock mosque on the site. Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad rose to heaven from the Dome of the Rock.

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