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Goodbye Jenn!

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To all of our supporters and follower and lovers of archaeology,

There comes a time in every person’s career where they have to take a new opportunity even if it means leaving a place and people that they love. Unfortunately for me, that day is today and it is with deepest melancholy that I have to say farewell.

I have been blessed to have spent the last 2 ½ years with the Temple Mount Sifting Project. You may not know me, but I am the person behind most of our blog posts, newsletters, and social media, with a little grant writing, donor relations, video editing, and research added in for good measure. I also led many of the tours in English at the site in Emek Tzurim.

I cannot express in words how fantastic this project is, the importance of the research being done here, or the truly amazing people who work here. Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite memories from the past few years as an insight into the people and the project that I love. So in no particular order:

1. Finding TWO coins on my Hebrew Birthday and Zachi telling me that he believes that coins are usually found by people who deserve it / are special in some way.

2. Driving Dr. Gaby Barkay anywhere and listening to his history lessons of Jerusalem as he points out landmarks and the sites of historical events both big and small. Dr. Barkay is a treasure and I am blessed to have worked with him.

3. Sharing the ASOR conference in 2017 in Boston with Aaron Greener and Haggai Cohen Klonymus.

4. Lab conversations between the researchers as they made discoveries. I will never forget the day that Frankie came in so excited that she had found another tile for her Second Temple period floor, or my first day when Frankie and Hillel were discussing various artifacts for about an hour while I waited for Zachi to arrive and tell me what to do.

5. Finding a tiny Roman die – one of a handful ever found by the project.

6. Giving my first lecture in the lab with a wonderful family from Australia. I love sharing the history of the Temple Mount with guests. That is one of the reasons I loved writing all of these blog posts. This history is so important, but more than that, it speaks to a different level of the soul because this is YOUR history; this is the Temple Mount.

7. Working with our two amazing interns Hannah and Renata. It was a bit surreal to be considered a professional enough to merit an intern and it was a pleasure to see them grow and fall in love with Israel.

8. Making bullot in the lab for last year’s campaign. We used our 10th century BCE seal to make seal impressions to send to the first 25 donors in the campaign. Mixing modern clay with Temple Mount soil for tempering and then making replicas that really meant something was really special. Also, shout-out to my mom for being one of the first 25 donors and getting one of the sealings. Check out the video: How to Make Bullot!

9. Writing and shooting my first movie and sitting for hours with our talented video editor to make a campaign video. Join Us!

Haggai showing artifacts on Yom Yerushalayim in the Old City

10. Getting sunburned on the 50th Yom Yerushalayim from standing in the Old City and sharing our project with the thousands of visitors. We had a display case with some of our modern artifacts from the 6 Day War as well as artifacts from the entire history of the Temple Mount.

11. Carrying a 17 kilo plaque through airport security and then driving it down to the Hamptons. The Hamptons community were so welcoming and the bakery near the synagogue has the best black and white cookies I have ever had.

12. Watching the faces of our visitors as they actually touched a piece of the floor from the Second Temple – a floor that the High Priest walked upon. Or coins, or architecture, or anything that they discovered from the Temple itself. There is nothing like the look on a child’s face when they physically touch history and you know that your message reached them. Making future archaeologists and those who will fight to protect our heritage.

13. Getting the news that we were going to do a pilot program and try to restart the sifting as a mobile project. Working with the students in Tekoa after such a long hiatus reminded me how special the Temple Mount material really is. Every bucket has amazing material from all the time periods in the history of the Temple Mount.

14. The humility, generosity, and humor of the lab staff. Staff dinners, singing together at the barbecue last year as everyone’s kids ran around, celebrating births, deaths, and weddings. I have worked in a lot of places and I am so grateful for how quickly I was included in the TMSP family. It is also really special to be working with so many female archaeologists in one place. I truly love you all.

15. My first trip to the Temple Mount was with the TMSP staff. Seeing this holy place with people who really appreciate it, and learning about everything that this site has gone through from war, to fire, to rebuilding, to being so contested and yet remaining, was a really moving experience. Every time I have gone up to the Temple Mount, with other staff, with Dr. Barkay and a group of US Congressmen, I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to visit such an amazing, holy, important place. My grandfather only ever dreamed of visiting Israel, and here I am, an Israeli citizen as of 3 years ago and standing on the Temple Mount itself. It is a feeling I hope never grows old, and is something I will take with me forevermore.

These are just a few of the memories, but I hope that you can see just a glimpse of how special the Sifting Project is. I can tell you with complete certainty that the staff really does consider all of its supporters as part of the Sifting Project family. We could not be the project we are today without you. From sifting to supporting our research, you are the foundation of this project.

Now that I am gone, there may be fewer blog posts and fewer videos or Facebook posts. This does not mean that the Sifting Project staff are being idle; it just means that there isn’t a budget to continue putting out the kind of content we have for the past few years as they are not replacing me when I leave for a new opportunity. Breakthroughs and news media will definitely be shared with you as well as the occasional amazing artifact and other news. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the quarterly newsletter, do it now! That is a great way to get updates on the project and make sure you don’t miss anything.

My email, development@tmsifting.org, will continue to be active and your emails will now be answered by our lovely and talented office manager Inbal, or by one of our directors.

With much love and gratitude, thank you for the past 2 1/2 years,

Jennifer Greene
Director of International Development and Public Relations

Our New Mobile Sifting Program

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Students Sifting in the Community

The Mount Comes to You

Hello everyone, we have some news to share with you. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is renewing its activity outside the lab! For the first time in the history of archaeological research in Israel –the site will be coming to you. We will be bringing the antiquities-rich soil that was illegally removed from the Temple Mount in the late 90s to various communities and institutions throughout Israel. Students and volunteers will be able to sift through this material and take part in the important work of recovering the ancient artifacts within. A sifting activity was undertaken yesterday in the Yeshurun School in Petach Tikva – but this is just the beginning! We’ve already started taking requests from other communities throughout Israel.

This new archaeological program focuses on sifting the remaining earth from Solomon’s Stables that was illegally bulldozed from the Temple Mount in the late 90s. We’ve always encouraged our volunteers to take an active role in the salvage of artifacts buried in this soil, and over the years we’ve involved an unprecedented number of volunteers in our work. Because it is a sifting project, which can accommodate larger crowds than a traditional excavation, over 200,000 people have participated – a world record in archaeological research both in Israel and worldwide. Now, our project has been transformed into a mobile activity which can traverse the country and engage various schools, institutions, and communities.

As Zachi said, “we want to make Temple Mount heritage accessible to the entire Israeli public. In this new program, we now aim to reach the parts of the public who found it difficult to come to the sifting site in Jerusalem.”

The mobile sifting is accomplished by loading the soil onto a truck in large sacks which are then brought to the community’s site where sifting stations and a water system are set up. Each group or class participates in an activity that lasts for 2 hours (1.5 in the schools) and includes an educational presentation of the archaeology of the Temple Mount and the story of the Sifting Project. Then, the volunteers sift through the soil, collecting all the archaeological finds, which fascinates young and old alike.

Temple Mount soil being sifted in the city of Petach Tikva by Yeshurun High school students Photo Credit: Inbal Dasberg

Yeshurun High school principal, Rabbi Yaniv Cohen, expounded on the importance of the activity: “The sifting activity touches upon the past, and allows us to meet ourselves in the present, while showing a commitment towards the future. The act of sifting, while seemingly an act of separation, in fact enables us to come together and be a part of the unfolding story of Jewish history. This is doubly felt in Petach Tikva, with its strong commitment to Jerusalem.”

Students find ancient coin in community sifting. Photo Credit: Inbal Dasberg

“Seeing the students fascinated by the tangible interaction with the Temple Mount artifacts is exciting.” says archaeologist Haggai Cohen. “The students keep asking for a detailed explanation about each artifact they find, and with this hands-on experience, they are getting a deep education about the heritage of Jerusalem, its history, archaeology, and the cultures that formed it.”

As one student said, “We are having a lot of fun! We feel like we are taking part in a really important project finding old and important artifacts.”

We hope to reach every sector of society – Jews, Christians, and Muslims, religious and secular. The history of the Temple Mount shows that the Mount was an important center of activity for all the monotheistic religions for over three millennia.

We hope that we will receive the promised government funding soon. However, we will most likely need to set up some sort of matching program to continue with this mobile sifting program. If you would be interested in helping to sponsor a school or community, please be in contact with development@tmsifting.org.

BONUS: Finds in Honor of Jerusalem Day

Yehud coins from the Temple Mount. A barn own is depicted next to the lettersיהד (yhd) in ancient Hebrew script. These are both the first coins to be minted in Jerusalem and the first coins minted by Jews anywhere. Photo Credit: Zachi Dvira

In addition to resuming the sifting, in honor of Jerusalem Day, we’ve agreed to share with the public some of the special finds that they are currently researching. The sifting yielded a collection of over 6000 ancient coins, some of which were the first minted in Jerusalem, and by Jews. These rare coins were minted in Jerusalem in the end of the fourth century BCE, when Jerusalem served as capital of the semi-autonomous “Yehud” province of the Persian Empire. The coins were modeled after the most popular coin of the time – the Athenian Obol. The Jerusalemite coins copied the barn owl from the Greek coin, but changed the Greek letters ΑΘΕ, short for the name of the city of Athens, to the ancient Hebrew letters יהד – a short form of the name of the province Yehud Medinta. These coins mark the transition in trade from the use of gold, hacksilber (silver pieces), or other commodities to using a monetary system regulated by the authority which minted the coins.

Three of these Persian Period coins were found in the sifting of the Temple Mount soil, and another two tiny silver coins, too worn to read, are suspected to belong to this type as well. These coins are very rare. Not including those found by the Sifting Project, in the history of excavations of ancient Jerusalem, only five other such coins have been found. The relatively high number of such coins found by the Sifting Project is a result of the wet-sifting methodology perfected by the project, and the fact that the Temple Mount functioned as an administrative and commercial center during the early days of the Second Temple in addition to being the site of the Temple itself.

Better Than A Museum

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Visit Us!

Child looking at ancient beads in the lab

Come visit us in our research lab! We miss you! For our supporters, we are offering tours of our research laboratory where you can see all of our special finds and learn about them from one of our expert archaeologists. It is one of the gifts on our crowdfunding page at  www.half-shekel.org .

These tours are our way of saying thank you to our supporters. For these gifts, the donation collected goes to support our project’s research and the process of resuming the sifting itself. Not only is it a great experience for you and your family, but it is an enormous help to our project. You help us to preserve the heritage of Jerusalem’s past. You help to ensure that facts, reality, and the heritage of all people who are connected to the Temple Mount is protected and published. You help us uncover facts that will hopefully lead to educated discussion about this most important heritage site: The Temple Mount

Also…we miss you!

Without the sifting of new material, we are focusing more than ever on our research in the research lab. While we have been getting a lot done, I must say that we do miss showing off our amazing material to visitors. There is something amazing about seeing a child’s face light up when he holds a piece of pottery from 3000 years ago. It is a reminder of how simple joy can be sometimes and how we should always look at the world with awe and wonder.

Recently, we’ve had a number of visitors come to our research lab and it has been an absolute pleasure to show these people the exciting things we have been doing and the amazing artifacts that we now know more about than ever before.

Artifacts you can touch at the lab

On site, it was special to do a summary at the end of the sifting to show everyone what they had found. Sometimes though, depending on what was found that day, it could be challenging. It’s great to say “look! You found a piece of pottery!” but it is equally if not more important to be able to show why we care about that piece of pottery. Here at the lab, we can really tell the whole story of the Temple Mount. We can show you what the Temple would have looked at from the floor tiles to the decorated column tops. We can show you the daily life of people from the weapons they fought with, to the cooking pots they cooked with, to the dice they played with and really paint a picture of what a person’s life was like, and how that changed from period to period. We can show you how materials changed over time and how we can really see the differences in style or material as one period moved into the next. We can show you the symbolism on coins that have been professionally cleaned so that you can actually read the words “For the Freedom of Zion” and not just wonder what is underneath that lump of green metal. Here at the lab, we have almost an interactive museum of amazing artifacts that we can show you, and many of which you can touch and feel for yourself.

Dr. Aaron Greener discusses the project with visitors in the lab

Not only that, but we have the experts here who are working on their research as we speak. I was here the other day as Frankie figured out how one of her triangles was made using only a compass and a string. It was a literal Eureka moment, and here at the lab she can tell our visitors her research up to the minute. We can share with you theories that aren’t quite ready for print, and we can show you the things we’ve only just discovered as meaningful in our storage boxes, such as two rare pieces of pottery that we discovered actually fit together and are from the same vessel. The lab is an exciting place to be, and we are so lucky to be able to share that with our visitors.

We actually have a renovated space now where we can comfortably fit groups, and we are having more and more groups come to us and learn first hand about the amazing history of the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, it is still a place of work, so groups have to be specially organized to ensure that a tour doesn’t disrupt an entire day’s work. This also means that these tours are a bit more exclusive than the sifting site was. Tours of our research lab are guided by one of our senior staff members to donors on our crowd-funding site at www.half-shekel.org. Tours are 1.5-2 hours and we can now accommodate up to fifteen adults. We would love to have You come and visit us. Be in touch and email development@tmsifting.org for more information or to schedule your visit.

 

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.

 

 

Virtual Tour of the Temple Mount

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Hi everyone! This is just a quick message to let you know that we are diligently working to put out a full virtual tour of the Temple Mount. We’ve already got three videos posted in our YouTube playlist “Temple Mount Tour” with two more in the queue.

Follow our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any!

In the comments, let us know if there is a specific place on the Temple Mount that you want us to “stop” and explain.

Also, if you enjoy content like this and want more of it, make sure to support our research. Right now, we are running a Matching Campaign, so every dollar that you donate will be DOUBLED! It makes a huge impact on what we are able to accomplish and what we are able to focus on in our research. Also there are fantastic gifts for our supporters 😉

You can support us now at www.half-shekel.org and double YOUR impact!

Here is one of our most recent videos: Before “Al-Aqsa,” what did we call the “Temple Mount?”

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