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ISIS-Style Destruction of Antiquities, Right Here in Israel

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A week and a half ago, our staff had a fun day. As archaeologists, we obviously decided to go visit some archaeological sites, but we had no idea what we were about to see.

One of our stops on our trip was at the site of Archelais, which is north of Jericho. It is an ancient site that was built by King Herod’s son Archelaus (who then named the site after himself). Josephus mentions that Archelaus “magnificently rebuilt the royal palace that has been at Jericho, and he diverted half the water with which the village of Neara used to be watered, and drew off that water into the plain, to water those palm trees which he had there planted: he also built a village, and put his own name upon it, and called it Archelais.” (Antiquities 17.340)

In the Roman world, the dates from Archelais and the surrounding region were greatly admired. Pliny the Elder (NH 9.13) describes them as “highly esteemed – the more remarkable quality of these is a rich, unctuous juice; they are of a milky consistency, and have a sort of vinous flavour, with a remarkable sweetness, like that of honey” and they were bequeathed by Salome, King Herod’s sister to Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar (antiquities 18.31). Today, the area still boasts large tracts of date palms.  The site of Archelais proper is identified with the ancient ruin of Khirbet el-Beiyudat.

That is until recently.

Archelais was excavated from 1986 to 1999 by Hananya Hizmi who is now the Head Staff Officer of Archaeology for the Israeli Civil Administration in the District of Judea and Samaria. Since that excavation, the site has been left mostly untouched until recent construction by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to turn the surrounding area into a resort.

While this was unfortunate construction encroaching on the archaeological site, the construction stayed to the edges of the site. However, it seems that the men who were brought in to bulldoze the area for the construction realized that the land they were digging was rich with archaeological artifacts. It seems as though they decided to come back and see what they could find and in a short period of time, perhaps days, the almost the entire site was marred by bulldozers, and mass looting for the illicit antiquities market.

What we saw, and what you can see in these pictures is not Syria or Iraq. It’s right here in Israel.

 

This is quite possible the biggest archaeological destruction  in Israeli history. While the Temple Mount may be a more important site rich in antiquities from all different time periods, in size, the whole-sale destruction, covering about 100 dunams (about 25 acres of land) in Archelais is much larger than that of the south-eastern corner of the Temple Mount. We were shocked. We never saw such massive destruction, and we’ve been working with the Temple Mount material for 13 years. There were hundreds of pits, many trenches, and the entire site was turned over by bulldozers looking for archaeological “hot spots.” We could see many archaeological artifacts strewn across the site, including ashlar stones, pieces of architecture, column drums, and farming tools.

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So, let’s do a brief history. According to the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria is now separated into three areas: Areas A, B, and C. Area C is under the jurisdiction of Israel with full administrative and security control. Area A is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority with full administrative and security control. Area B is jointly administered with the Palestinian Authority in charge of administration and Israel in charge of security. The Oslo Accords also call to protect and safeguard archaeological sites, prevent damage, respect academic freedom, and grant excavation licenses to archaeologists on a non-discriminatory basis.

It seems that the main problem is that the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration has little manpower and it seems, little interest in this area of Israel. They have only one person in charge of antiquities robbery, construction supervision, and excavations for this district that encompasses over 3000 sites. This district covers the entire Jordan Valley and southern Samaria. In the Israel Antiquities Authority, on the other side on the “Green Line” there would be 60-70 people in charge of a district of comparable size.

It is a huge problem that Israel is not investing its resources to preserve archaeological sites in Judea and Samaria in areas C or B. The Palestinian Authority also has few staff and lacks resources in their archaeology department.

This type of destruction cannot be allowed to continue or to happen again elsewhere. We brought this destruction to the attention of Channel 2 News in Israel. They interviewed our staff members and an expose was aired last Friday night. The report also had a brief update about the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

We can do better in protecting our archaeological heritage in Israel. We need people who care to speak up and force the government to allocate the necessary funding and resources to the preservation and conservation of archaeological sites throughout Israel.

May 2018 bring us the protection we need for our archaeological sites and our heritage at risk in Israel.

Click here to See Video from Channel 2.

 

 

Make Me a Match!

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“Matchmaker Matchmaker make me a match! Find me a find! Catch me a catch!”

Well we’ve definitely got finds, but starting today, we’ve also got matching!

Starting Today, thanks to a very generous donor, every donation made on www.half-shekel.org will be DOUBLED until we raise $20,000.

2000 years ago, you would have given a half-shekel coin as tribute to the Temple.

You could only give HALF of what was needed and your neighbor’s contribution would COMPLETE the donation.

We are officially in the three weeks of Jewish mourning that culminates in the fast day on the 9th of Av to commemorate the destruction of the Temple and many other terrible events in Jewish history. It is a common practice to learn about the Temple construction and laws during this time. We will do our part by providing videos and information from our research about these topics.

Do your part by helping us complete our research on First and Second Temple Period architectural fragments and other artifacts.

Give now at www.half-shekel.org and double YOUR impact.

Reaching Our Goal!

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Shalom to all of our supporters,   

We did it! Despite the difficulties and obstacles, we managed to exceed our first target and raise over NIS 250,000! Our deep and heartfelt thanks go out to the 889 backers who immediately came forward to support our campaign and show the world that they care about the heritage of the Temple Mount.

We are thrilled by the broad support we have received from the general public and from the media that covered the issue and a special thanks goes out to Avri Gilad (an Israeli TV and radio top celebrity) whose viral video in support of our project brought us an additional 200 backers in this campaign. Your support enables us to continue the research on the artifacts from the Temple Mount until the end of this year!

We reached our goal so quickly, we are now able to go on to phase two! We are continuing to strive and reach funding sources for the continuation of our research in the years to come, the types of artifacts that do not yet have funding, and the publication of this research. The full study will yield many more discoveries about the artifacts we have recovered. This will be included in a series of volumes of scientific publications (the first 4 are planned for 2019), as well as a number of articles for the general public. Once we’ve funded the full research, we will also be able to resume the sifting work that has stopped.

GOAL 2: Fully Fund Our Research and Resume Sifting

We need about NIS 6.8 million ($1.8M). Since this is a significant amount, we are working to obtain the balance of the funding from several channels. Here is our plan on how to get it (with your help):

1) Several government offices are working on findings solutions for our funding needs though nothing is concrete yet and we still don’t have promises with specifics (We received pledges for full funding of the project and meetings were scheduled, but no decision has yet been made). We will update you once something has been officially announced.

2) Public support – so far we have raised NIS 250,000 with your help! We will continue to run the Headstart Campaign for our Israeli supporters, but we will also reopen our half-shekel.org platform. This will enable donors to give in dollars as well as have an option to give a tax-deductible donation in the US and UK. Please share our campaign on half-shekel.org with your friends who could not give in NIS.

3) Philanthropic donors – We have been promised $70,000 in donations so far and are working on applications for grants and matching campaigns.

We will update the text of the campaign pages to keep you apprised of the situation and we will post any important updates on the blog as well. This way, you can monitor our progress and keep track of the government’s promises.

Showing your support for our campaign has far-reaching effects.

So far, our campaign has been the catalyst for momentum in various processes within government institutions and also with donors from abroad. Many influential people (including the Prime Mininster’s Office) are following the public’s support for the campaign. The state’s obligation to protect its heritage can no longer be ignored because YOUR support has created a new discourse and standards that have never before existed.

Even more, your contribution and your caring has encouraged philanthropists to reach out to our project. This means that your donation is being matched many times over.

Israel Antiquities Authority director, Israel Hasson, said last week on the radio that he sees “great value in the current campaign which is bringing the public closer to this important cause.” Your support of our project and of this campaign is an act that indicates that the public is at the front of the struggle for the future of the protection of heritage and cultural values.

Giving to our campaign is almost like signing a petition for the protection of Temple Mount Heritage, and every name on the list, no matter the size of the donation, has a huge impact.

This is even more important in the wake of resolutions like that of UNESCO last October and as recently as this week on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. When the world tries to tell us that there is no Jewish or Christian connection to Jerusalem, or that there was never a Jewish Temple upon the Temple Mount, your voice in support of our archaeological research that provides evidence to contradict these outrageous resolutions is even more important. Your support shows the world that we will not stand for the rewriting of history, the ignorance of evidence and research, and the erasure of our heritage.

We cherish, appreciate, and thank each and every one of you. With great appreciation,

Gabriel Barkay, Zachi Dvira, and the TMSP Team

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