A Palestinian resident of Jerusalem's Old City who was carrying out construction to expand his Temple-Mount-adjacent store discovered an Ayyubid-period chamber containing a wealth of antiquities. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is now insisting on legally expropriating the land to excavate the site, but the owners objected and claimed that it's an Israeli attempt to damage Muslim antiquities as part of the "'Judaicization of Jerusalem."
The Palestinian Ma'an news agency interviewed the owner, Imad Abu Hadijah. According to antiquities experts who visited the site that he uncovered, it was used for commercial purposes during the 12th century.
Abu Hadijah told Ma'an that IAA experts visited and claimed that there were ancient Hebrew inscriptions, but he said that those inscriptions were actually in Arabic, writing out "Mohammed" and "Allah." He told the agency in tears, "I swear to God…it's Islamic heritage."
He further claimed that IAA representatives insisted that he vacate the building in return for monetary compensation and that he refused due to "the important discoveries for Islam."
Maor Tzemach, Chairman of the organization Lach Yerushalayim ("To Thee Jerusalem"), which seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty in all parts of the capital, commented, "The archaeological digs in east Jerusalem that are not supervised by the Antiquities Authority constitute serious damage to researching the past. It's inconceivable that private parties make their own law for themselves and directly damage Israeli sovereignty. In addition, presenting the excavation as a political matter constitutes dangerous incitement that could lead to extremist acts."
The IAA said in reply that it is "responsible for preserving the heritage of us all. The area of the Old City in Jerusalem is a declared antiquities site, and any renovation or development in the area requires a permit from the Antiquities Authority by law. This case is known to the Antiquities Authority and is eing handled by it."