Israel decided to dispel rumors according to which excavations under Temple Mount were the reason behind recent riots
As part of the public relations campaign, the Government Press Office held a tour of the Western Wall tunnels for foreign reporters.
Some 70 reporters participated in the tour, during which they received briefings from engineers, archeologists, members of the Antiquities Authority, as well as from the Western Wall's Rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz.
"Under the instructions of Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein, the Government Press Office will resume PR activities with foreign reporters," Daniel Seaman, head of the Government Press Office, told Ynet.
"During the tunnel tours we explained that we are not excavating, but merely exposing the past, in order to learn what happened here. Unfortunately there are those who are looking to discredit our right to the Temple Mount by painting a distorted image of our actions, as part of a de-legitimization campaign against the State of Israel," added Seaman.
Mary Ann Hock, a journalist who participated in the tour, was impressed by Israel's
transparency. "There were some new things they showed us.
"I was impressed; we entered areas that are not open to visitors. It was very intriguing because we saw the depth of the excavations, and I never realized how many layers existed," said Hock.
According to Hock, the explanations given by Rabbi Rabinowitz clarified the picture. "I understood there is no way Jews are conducting excavations here; certainly not underneath the Temple Mount.
"It surprised me because the subject is very sensitive, yet I came out of the tour feeling that the rabbi was truthful. Before (the tour) the picture was not so clear," she said.
According to Rabinowitz, the journalists were impressed by the freedom of worship policy, especially in light of restrictions placed on the entrance of worshippers to Temple Mount during the holidays.
"I explained that if it were a Jew trying to sneak in a wheelbarrel full of stones, I would have prevented him from reaching the Western Wall as well," he said.
"I stressed that the entrance of Jews into the Temple Mount is forbidden according to the Jewish faith, which I believe caught them by surprise. There was a feeling of honesty and openness.
"Many influential people participated in the tour, and now they understand that the roots of the Jewish People are intertwined with the Western Wall and Jerusalem," added Rabinowitz.
The Government Press Office is planning to hold similar tours in Hebron and the Golan Heights. "The tours are meant to allow reporters to broaden their horizons," explained Seaman.