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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.

 

 

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?”

Updates, News, and Tours

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Hello blogworld!

We have a number of important updates to share with you.

Current Campaign Stats:

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189,200 shekel 

pledged by 550 backers.

That’s 76% of our goal!

 

BUT…

Our momentum has slowed because of two statements issued by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority assuring everyone that they are taking care of our project. We appreciate all the help that we can get, but unfortunately, these two statements are based on vague promises not actions, and have detrimentally affected our campaign. Everyone we have spoken to or reached out to has said, “but isn’t the government now taking care of it?”

In short, the answer is no. None of these offices have given us any concrete pledge or solution.

We need your help to share the truth of the situation and help us get the momentum of our campaign running again. So here are the facts:

Facts:

  1. This campaign is all or nothing. According to the rules of this campaign, if we do not reach our initial target amount (250,000 NIS), your credit card will not be charged and we will not receive a single shekel that has been donated so far. That is over $50,000 that we will not see.
  2. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that our problems had been resolved, but in practice, even a meeting had not yet been scheduled.
  3. The Antiquities Authority also issued a statement that they were searching for a solution to our problem, but we have not even been contacted to discuss this.
  4. Even if the government eventually steps in, they will provide support – not funding for the whole project. This will also take time we do not have before we have to close our doors.
  5. At this stage, we are raising the funds necessary to complete our research on the artifacts already discovered by our project.
  6. Only once we have funded our research will we be able to move on to our second goal which is to publish this research and then resume the sifting of the rest of the material from the Temple Mount.
  7. The sifting activity currently taking place at Emek Tzurim through Ir David is no longer related to our project. They are not sifting material from the Temple Mount, but rather material from various IAA excavations.

Unfortunately, and as we all know, promises are not actions. Please help us spread the word that these official statements from the different government offices are not telling the full truth of the situation.

How can we reach our goal? With YOUR help.

Please massively distribute the link to our project’s campaign to your circles of influence with an explanation of its importance and a warm recommendation to support our crowdfunding campaign.

Send it to your email list, publish it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and more.

Click HERE for the link 

You are the heart and motivation of the sifting and research of the heritage of the Temple Mount and for this you have our deepest thanks.

Please help us complete this process.

In Other News:

  • O17800111_10155224299614324_7396040636737479064_nur arrowhead replicas are ready to go (and available as gifts on our campaign website)!

  • NEW! Guided Tours!

June 8th – Tour the Temple Mount itself with our Director Zachi Dvira who has been studying this holy and complex site for the last 18 years. (Hebrew)

June 15th – Tour Ir David with one of its excavators. Learn the inside scoop about the history of this fantastic city. (Hebrew)

Join a tour by clicking on the appropriate gift in our crowdfunding campaign. Not only will you learn something, have a great day out on the (ancient) town, but you will do a huge mitzvah in helping our project too!

Can’t make it?

Form a group of 10+ and we can schedule a private tour in English or Hebrew.

Critical Time for the Temple Mount Sifting Project – You Can Make a Real Difference

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Shalom Friends,

I may have asked you before to support the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and I don’t feel so comfortable asking it again, but I do so because this time it is really critical and the success of the campaign is likely to lead the government of Israel to announce the establishment of a Temple Mount Heritage Fund that will mainly support the Sifting Project.

In order for the Prime Minister to see that there is broad public support for the project and that the campaign will succeed, it is vital important that in the first week we will reach as many donors as possible. Please support us again (any amount will help, there is also great value to the number of contributors), and please distribute the video. The next 48 hours are critical!

These are the remnants of the past of all of us that may be forgotten!

Link for donations on the campaign website:

https://www.giveback.co.il/project.aspx?id=564&lan=en-US

Direct link for sharing the video on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/SiftingProject/videos/10155204815929324/

Sincerely and with thanks,

Zachi Dvira

(Founder)

Important Note: Two days ago a generous donor, Edward Baumstein, pledged to match all donations made through the crowdfunding site in the following 72hrs. There are still another 24 hrs left so donate now!

How Can I Help?

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Hi everyone,
Here’s the deal. The sifting has stopped, we are about to close down completely, and we need your help. Please donate to our campaign now AND share our video. The first 48 hours of the campaign are key to its success and we either get all of the funding or none of it.

Click Here for the Link to Our Facebook video

Why the first 48 hours are critical:

  1. Headstart, which is hosting our campaign promotes projects that score high in their algorithm. We have a good chance of having them promote our campaign, and reaching many new people, if we have a lot of donors, a high percentage of our campaign fulfilled, and all of that within the first 48 hours.
  2. People give when they see others giving. The more people who donate, even small amounts, shows everyone visiting the campaign that a lot of people think this project is important.

AND 3. There is a good chance that the government will create a foundation for the heritage of the Temple Mount and will partially fund our project, but we need to show the Prime Minister that there is wide reaching support for this project.

Thank You

We are overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback we have been getting about this campaign! We want to give a big thank you to the 127 supporters who have already backed our campaign. Only a few hours in, and we are 13% of the way toward our goal. You are making us see how important this project is to you. It is sometimes easy to forget the larger goal of protecting this heritage when we are bogged down by the day to day running of things, but you are the people that we work for and we truly appreciate your interest and support. You are our backbone and our purpose.

Dear supporters, we are relying on you now, since all else has failed. If you have ever learned anything from our project, please don’t let our 12 years of effort and work go to waste.

Help now at our Giveback.co.il Campaign Page

and

Share our YouTube Video

Is this the End of the Sifting Project?

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To all of our friends and supporters,

We have an important announcement to make. We want to make our official announcement that the sifting of material from the Temple Mount has stopped. This is due to a number of different reasons including lack of funding and differences between the directors of the Sifting Project and the Ir David Foundation that has, until now, funded the operation of the Sifting Site at Emek Tzurim. We will not resume the sifting until the publication of research on the finds that we have already recovered has been fully funded and completed.
natanWe apologize to all those planning to come and sift with us. Ir David will continue to sift archaeological material at Emek Tzurim through the Antiquities Authority, but it will not be related to our project in any way. We will miss all of you, and hope that you will join with us when we are able to restart the sifting in the future.To date, we have sifted through about 70% of the material taken out of the Temple Mount in 1999. As you know, this is the first archaeological material ever to be researched from within the Temple Mount itself. We have recovered innumerable artifacts and have brought about huge discoveries through our research. Yet more research is needed on many objects. Completing the research on these objects may cause us to change our methodology or approaches to the material, and we want to ensure that there is unsifted material on which to use a new methodology if needed. Though unexpected, the stopping of our sifting could be a good thing for our project’s methodology in the long run.

Project directors meet with Prime Minister, Netanyahu

All of this change in our organization also forces us to face the realities of the funding deficit of our research. We have spent a good portion of the last 6 months trying to gain concrete promises of government support for our project, but nothing yet has been announced despite vague promises from the Prime Minister himself. We are now launching a crowdfunding campaign aimed at our Israeli supporters in the hope that this will help us last the year. You are also invited to help with this campaign.

We are sorry for sending this disturbing message, especially before the holidays, but we believe, and want you to believe, that everything that happens is for the best. The Sifting Project is now entering a new era and the future may conceal some new surprises.

With so much gratitude for your support through the years,

Dr. Gaby Barkay, Zachi Dvira, and the staff of the Temple Mount Sifting Project

We have a winner!

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Hi everyone! Happy Purim! I just wanted to announce the winners of our Purim lottery!

Irit Doron, Kalle Winner, Eitan Cohen, Avi Ofer, and Geula Palchan! Congratulations!

Our winners will receive one of our full color booklets about the project and our finds AND a full set of all three of our new arrowhead reproductions

What a great way to own a piece of history. The set includes our rare 10th century BCE arrowhead from the time of King Solomon, our Babylonian arrowhead possibly from the destruction of the First Temple, and our Hellenistic arrowhead possibly from the Channukkah story.

Don’t miss out on future raffles and prizes! Like our facebook page now!

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Share, Like and Win the Pur!

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Purim is coming and The Temple Mount Sifting Project is running a lottery!

Five lucky follower (of our English or Hebrew page) will win a booklet and a complete set of our New arrowhead replicas from the First and Second Temple periods!

If you want to join the fun, like our page (Temple Mount Sifting Project) and share this post. The winner will be announced on Purim. Good luck!

purim-lot

It’s All Fun and Games!

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Find of the Month: December

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Alumah, age 10, holding an astragolos

Over Chanukkah, we had 1356 people come and sift with us! Out of the thousands of amazing finds recovered in the last week and the last month, our find of the month is this fantastic astragolos also commonly known as a game piece from the game of Knucklebones (though it isn’t the knuckles but rather the anklebones from the hind legs of sheep and goats that are used to play this game of chance). This artifact was found by the Bar Yosef family from Eli and seems to be the perfect fit for this fun-loving family! See Alumah, age 10, holding the astragolos found by her family.

The origin of Knucklebones is probably a more primitive form of dice. Sophocles ascribed the invention of knucklebones to Palamedes, who taught it to the Greeks during the Trojan War. It became one of the most popular games of chance in antiquity. The knucklebones, or astragaloi, were used like fivestones, dice, or jacks. The game is played with five small objects (10 with jacks) that were thrown in the air and caught in various ways such as on the back of the hand. Many have been found in funerary contexts and may have been intended to help the deceased entertain themselves through eternity.

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Bone astragolos found by the Bar Yosef family in the sifting

Today, variations of this game with specific rules and combinations of throws and catches are still played in different contexts across the world. Here in Israel, children play “Chamesh Avanim,” which is similar in concept but played with small metal dice or cubes. (This archaeologist can admit that her nieces always beat her).

Sometimes these game pieces were also made out of glass, bronze, stone, and terracotta, or had a hole and were used as a bead. Most astragaloi come from Hellenistic or Roman contexts. In October, while sorting through a collection of bones found the day before, one of our staff noticed that one of the bones looked like it was made of glass. He had found a glass astragolos! Though there have been many glass astragaloi discovered in Greece, its dependents, and the Eastern Mediterranean, they are rare here in Israel. A few have been found in Samaria, Maresha, Dor, and Jaffa. Unless others are unpublished, this was the first glass astragaloi found in Jerusalem. More research will determine the significance of this find and refine its dating, so stay tuned for a future article about this.

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Glass astragolos from the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv that is like the one found by the Sifting Project.

Name That Find: Answer!

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Last week, we asked all of our followers on the blog, on Facebook, and Twitter to Name That Find! We got a lot of really great and creative answers, but we managed to stump everyone (including some of our own staff members)!

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Thank you all for playing along and being such good sports. I got our expert, Dr. Aaron Greener to give you the real answer to the riddle! It’s the nose of a horse figurine!

Here’s a picture from the side. I found this picture in our database. I don’t know who took this picture, but I love them for making it look like the horse is eating a piece of cardboard. It is my new favorite picture.

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When we caught up with Aaron, I got him to talk more about this artifact and the others that he has been researching. He presents his research at the upcoming conference at Bar Ilan University in January.

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