The other day Israel's Antiquities Authority showed some journalists an ancient sewage duct which runs under the southern wall of the Old City, from the area under the Western Wall more or less, down into the City of David. Apparently some of the defenders of the city during the war against the Romans used this tunnel, but up till then it had been for sewage and since then it was blocked by the detritus of millennia, so in a way you can say it's a "new" tunnel.
As expected, various Palestinian notables immediately castigated the Israelis for intending to undermine the nearby mosques. No-one expected them not to. Of course, anyone with a modicum of understanding of the matter realizes that digging to the west of the Herodian wall which supports the Temple Mount can't lead under the mountain. The reason Herod's wall still stands so intact more than 2,000 years after it was built, having survived dozens of major earthquakes and destructive conquests of the area is that it's very very solid. No-one knows how thick it is, since no-one has ever blasted through it, but the assumption is somewhere between four and seven meters (that would be about 20 feet of solid rock).
The story I'd like to tell, however, isn't about the malicious Palestinian notables,but about the more regular folks.
About a week ago I went to listen to Prof. Dan Bahat, one of Jerusalem's top archeologists, talk about the current state of archeological knowledge about the city. He spoke for about four hours, in front of an audience of about a hundred people, many of them tourist guides. I'd say about 10-15 of them were Palestinian, some Israelis and some from East Jerusalem. For the first three hours, or more, Bahat talked about all the incendiary aspects of the city you'd expect from an important archeologist: have we identified this building from the Bible, that building from the revolt against the Romans, the market from the days of the Arab conquest, and so on. Throughout it all, the audience sat politely, with an occasional request for this clarification or that. If there was any animosity or even mere tension, I didn't notice.
Then, near the end of his lecture, Bahat said something about the Via Dolorosa, and how accurate or not its various stations might be. At which point the room erupted. A very loud group of the guides - Jews and Arabs together - demanded that he explain, or retract, or apologize, or jump in the lake, or all of the above. The explanation for this became clear: The Jewish and Arab stuff was all academic. The Via Dolorosa, however, is a crucial source of income if you're a tour-guide who works entirely with Christian pilgrims. Everyone knows the Jews and Arabs disagree about lots of stuff, so there's no need to make an issue of it. Cast doubt on a central part of the Christian narrative, however, and you'll soon be out of a job.