Dig beneath Jerusalem's sacred stones in the name of science, and you'll incite threats and preemptive arrests. At the very least, insults and rocks will be hurled.
The recent convergence of archaeological projects in Jerusalem's oldest and most sensitive district has ignited Arab fury, prompted official Israeli denials, and sparked off an internecine row amongst archaeologists about the use of Biblical scripture in scientific analysis.
Any archaeological excavation close to the Old City walls quickly becomes a religious flashpoint and a focus for vicious politicking that can provoke Muslims, Jews and Christians around the globe. Like a baklava of multiple historic layers, strewn with jarringly anachronistic artifacts because building materials were recycled by successions of tight-fisted conquerors, these rich diggings at the heart of the Holy Land are dense, compact, and sweet with promise. Passions run high and devout Millenarianists who count down for the Rapture and Apocalypse keep tabs on the symbolism of it all, complicating matters further.
And when a pro-settler Israeli group funds the digs, while Arab residents fight to keep their homes from being bulldozed to make way for a Biblical theme park fit for tourists on futuristic segways, the tension rises. Time magazine reports the latest.