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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept. 25, 1996 V4, #177
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Palestinians Protest Israeli Tunnel Under Temple Mount

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police in Jerusalem Tuesday, leaving several people injured and dozens of Palestinians under arrest. The clashes were triggered by Israel's opening of a tunnel under Islam's third holiest shrine to allow more tourists to visit archeological sites in the Old City.

Palestinian protesters chanted, "With our spirit and blood we are ready to redeem you, Al Aqsa," referring to the mosque above the tunnel. Just outside the old city, the protesters burned two Israeli vehicles and stoned an Israeli police station, drawing tear gas from the officers inside. There were similar clashes inside the Old City walls. In addition local merchants called for a strike, Islamic clergymen issued complaints and Palestinian radio played almost non-stop Jerusalem-related music.

The Palestinian anger was triggered by a heavily-secured, late-night Israeli construction crew, which, under the direct supervision of Jerusalem's mayor, cut the last half-meter of the controversial tunnel. The move opened the far end of the nearly 500-meter tunnel which begins at the Western Wall -- Judaism's holiest site -- runs under the Al-Aqsa compound -- Islam's third holiest site -- and opens near the Via Dolorosa, one of Christianity's holiest sites.

Al Aqsa and another mosque are on what Jews call the Temple Mount, where Judaism's Holy Temples once stood. Under an arrangement worked out after Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967, Islamic clergymen have administrative control of the Mount, but Israeli policemen patrol it. Jews are not allowed to pray on the Mount, but rather pray below at the Western Wall.

The tunnel opened early Tuesday follows the course of ancient streets now below the surface, bringing visitors alongside a 2,000- year-old water system, an older rock quarry, an old entrance to the Temple Mount and several other archeological attractions.

Palestinians have long protested excavations along the tunnel route, saying they violate Arab rights to the land, endanger the foundations of the mosques above, and desecrate Islamic graves and holy sites.

Previous Israeli governments bowed to the Palestinian objections and froze construction of the tunnel just before it was completed. The three-month-old right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided to go ahead with the tunnel opening. Israel says the wider tunnel and new exit will enable 400,000 people to visit the area each year, compared to the 70,000 who could visit before, using an old, narrow tunnel and retracing their steps to exit.

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called the tunnel opening a big crime against religious and holy places and completely against the peace process. He said Palestinians will not stand by quietly.

Hasmonean Tunnel in Jerusalem Re-opened

The Hasmonean Tunnel that was officially opened Tuesday was re-discovered, for the first time since the destruction of Jerusalem 1900 years ago, in the year 1867. It served as an aqueduct for water stored at a site near today's Damascus Gate as early as 2100 years ago, during the period of the Hasmoneans, and some experts date it as far back as the First Temple.

In addition to its archaeological value, the opening of the new tunnel has, in the words of one expert, "totally changed the face of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The ancient aspects of the city will now be open to the masses."

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said the previous government had obtained the agreement of the Palestinian Authority to open the tunnel last year, and only its "tendency to hesitate" caused it to be delayed until now.

The Big Squeeze

The local bar was so sure that its bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1000 bet.

The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money. Many people had tried over time (weight-lifters, longshoremen), but nobody could do it.

One day this scrawny little Jewish fellow came into the bar, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a tiny squeaky voice, "I'd like to try the bet." After the laughter had died down, the bartender said OK, grabbed a lemon, and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the Jewish fellow.

But the crowd's laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the bartender paid the $1000, and asked the little Jewish man "What do you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, a weight-lifter, or what?"

The Jewish fellow replied: "I work for the Jewish National Fund."

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