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Two Important Announcements

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Dear friends and supporters, this time we have two important announcements for you:

First the bad news. The government’s promises of funding have not been fulfilled. In September 2016, Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly vowed to fund the project, a promise repeated when he invited us to a meeting with him in December 2016. These promises have yet to be materialized, despite that the Prime Minister subsequently tasked the Israel Antiquities Authority to assess the Sifting Project’s funding needs and research plan. Over the following year, the IAA examined our research and budget proposals and even sought the recommendation of a committee of senior archaeologists from different academic institutions. This process lasted a whole year and finally on April 2018 the IAA director sent a letter to the Prime Minister office with the recommendation to fund a five-year research plan for the publication of the Sifting Project finds summing 2.4 million dollars.

Sifting Project directors meeting with PM Netanyahu (Dec 6th 2016). From left to right: Zachi Dvira, Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Edward Baumstein (the organization’s Board Director), PM Netanyahu and Ran Baratz (former PM Office media adviser)

All in all, things moved very slowly, and more than once we sensed that someone was trying to prevent the funding. Eventually, we were told that the government had settled on a plan, whereby we would receive altogether five million NIS (1.4 million USD) from the budgets of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, and the Office of the Prime Minister. However, before the decision could be ratified, the chief counsel to the Ministry of Culture halted the process, citing a pre-election moratorium, despite other legal experts’ claims that no such problem exists for a process that began over two years ago.

Sadly, our case is being handled at a very sluggish pace. It appears that we won’t receive government funding before the elections, and it is doubtful that we will be able to restart the process afterwards. This puts us in a difficult position, but we hope that we will be able to keep afloat with donations from supporters in Israel and abroad, as we have done until now, until we have finished all research on the project’s finds.

And now for the good news:

Despite that we haven’t succeeded in receiving government funding, and despite that we haven’t yet raised funds for this from other sources, we are renewing the sifting in a new, permanent location, this summer! The sifting site will be set up in the “HaMasu’ot Lookout” compound, near to the Hebrew University on Mt Scopus. The site is more accessible by public transport than the previous location, without security complications, and has an abundance of parking space. We are planning to launch the activity on the forthcoming Jerusalem day, 28th of Iyyar, June 2nd.

Visitors at the HaMasu’ot Lookout

30% of the Temple Mount soil, currently residing in the Zurim Valley National Park, is still waiting to be sifted. Owing to the heavy research workload surrounding artifacts awaiting scientific publication, we planned on taking a longer break in the sifting. However, on recognition of the imminent threat to the remaining soil from erosion due to exposure to the elements, and to its mixing with other illegal refuse deposits, we realized that it was imperative to restart the sifting as soon as possible. In addition, a large amount of excavated soil remains on the Temple Mount itself, and in the light of events during the last month of Ramadan (June 2018), we saw that this earth is also in danger and needs to be sifted after finding a suitable controlled method for transferring it from the Mount.

Some of the Temple Mount dirt heaps that are stored at Tzurim Valley National Park. The heaps are in danger of erosion.

Despite that the project has yet to receive the promised government funding, we aren’t suspending the process of rescuing the remains of the Temple Mount heritage from the unsifted soil, together with advancing with their research and publication. The project has progressed so far thanks to wide public support, and we are asking you to continue your support until all sifting and research have been completed. Gaby always says that the project’s most important find is its people, and in truth we are only investing so much effort in trying to continue this important work for you.

In the coming weeks we will start marketing the sifting activity and setting up the site’s infrastructure. However, in order to ensure that the activity will be permanent and stable, we need to raise funds for the infrastructure and the activity in the first year; thereafter we hope that we will be able to operate the sifting site in an economically self-sustained way. We need your help with: 1) Donations to set up the infrastructure for the sifting and the first year of its activity. 2) Marketing the sifting activity. The more groups register, the less we will need to raise funds. See the How to Participate blog section for further details.

Thanking you for your continued support over the years!

The Temple Mount Sifting Project team.

Book Week Campaign

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Fundraising, Fun, and Free Stuff

HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Our main goal right now is to raise the money to be able to publish our own series of books about our research on the Temple Mount. So – in honor of Hebrew Book Week we are doing fun things, fundraising, and giving away free stuff.

  1. publication (3) copyFollow us on Facebook and share our Book Week Campaign Video. On June 25th we will choose one person who shared the video this week and give them a FREE 40 page book about the Sifting Project, our finds and research with full color pictures. It is great to show off to your friends.
  1. DONATE to our campaign THIS WEEK. If you donate over $50 or ₪200, in addition to the gifts you automatically receive, we are adding in FREE SIFTING for you and your family. (This promotion is good for one time use, up to 5 people, and is good for one year).
  1. Follow our Facebook page or Twitter feed this week and get a Recommended Book of the Day from our fantastic staff. Books on the Temple Mount, Archaeology, and Israel. Get your library cards out and your amazon account activated because you won’t want to miss this. At the end of the week, I will also make a new blog post with the complete list.

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How Else Can You Help?

If you can’t give to our campaign, help us network and connect with people who might be able to support our goal of publishing our finds. Please share our story and let people know that the work we are doing is unprecedented and has the potential of adding an immense amount of knowledge to our understanding of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Without publication, it will be as if our thousands of finds had never been found and our work over the last 11 years hadn’t happened. The dialogue about the Temple Mount needs our research, and we need YOU to help spread the word.

Thank You

“On the first of the month of Adar a proclamation is made about the [giving of the] shekalim …” (Shekalim 1:1)

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We are still very far from the goal of funding the full publication of the finds from Sifting Project. We still don’t understand the significance of most them. Publishing these artifacts will shed more light on the long history of this sacred site, and hopefully contribute to the resolution of many debates related to this site.

We could reach this goal only with the help of the large crowd who supports this project.
Please help share and distribute this video.

Searching for Volunteers to Translate text into Variety of Languages

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We are searching for volunteers for translating English text into a variety of language, for a new crowd funding website. Its about 4000 words.
More languages the website will be available in, the wider international awareness to the project and the significance of the Temple Mount antiquities will be spread.
Volunteers may contact us at tmsifting@gmail.com

Update on Recent Developments at the Sifting Project

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The number of visitors/volunteers at the Sifting Project has been increasing year by year and also the volume of the material that has been sifted. To date we have sifted about half of the debris that is on hand. This means that we have at least ten more years of sifting. This is without taking into account the large amount of dirt that is lying in heaps in the eastern olive grove on the Temple Mount and has not yet been removed due to a Supreme Court ruling from 2004.

The sifting site continues to develop, and recently we have installed new permanent restrooms, another office for staff use, and a newly upgraded green house. Also we have expanded the seating in the introduction hall.

Gal Zagdon, the archaeologist who managed the daily work at the sifting site for the past six years, announced last week that he is retiring from archaeology and will be leaving us soon. Gal will leave a large vacant space that will be difficult to fill in, and we wish him good luck in his future occupation. We will give more details about his retirement in the future.

Currently, our research efforts are dedicated to sorting and analyzing the prevalent finds. We are about to complete the basic chronological and typological sorting of the one hundred thousand pottery rims we gathered so far! Soon, we will begin an in-depth high resolution typological sorting and statistical analysis of the pottery, which quite certainly will yield very interesting information and knowledge. Already now, we are gathering valuable information from the basic sorting of the pottery. It appears that we have evidence of the presence of activity on the Temple Mount during the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze ages. Although the number of pieces of pottery from these periods is small, they should not be neglected. There is also clear presence of activity during the Iron IIA period (the time of Kings Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat and Joash), during the time between the two Jewish Revolts against the Roman (70-132 CE). The Byzantine period pottery appears in abundance, and from the Early Moslem period we have evidence of pottery production.

The analysis of the coins is in its final phase, and it appears that we are have recovered some very rare coins, including a – Crusader gold coin, ours being only the second of its type found in the world. In addition, the study of the following subjects are close to being completed : opus sectile floor tiles, arrowheads, horseshoe nails, construction nails, roof tiles, bone objects, glass bracelets and rings, beads, stone vessels, and glazed wall tiles. We are beginning to see the light in the end of the tunnel.

Recently, several unique and interesting finds were discovered, but it is difficult to give more details about them at this stage, since they require further in-depth study. But among these are bullae with Greek inscriptions (one from the Hellenistic period and the second is probably Byzantine), Late Bronze scarabs and scarabs impressions, unique anepigraphic bullae, a rare bronze arrowhead that seems to date to the Iron Age I-IIA (the Jebusite period until the time of King Solomon), stone weights from the First Temple Period (which may give us new information regarding the standard weight of the “holy shekel” that was used in the Temple), fragments of architectural elements from the time of the Hasmonean and the Herodian dynasties, many Christian crosses and crucifixes made of iron, bronze and mother-of-pearl, evidence of a bone objects industry during the Late Roman period, a rare Ottoman seal of the grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the 18th century (‘Abd al-Fatah al Tamimi), and British military insignia.

The things mentioned above are just a small glimpse of the great abundance of finds we managed to gather during the sifting so far, and the research work is long and tedious. This is the reason we do not publish more frequently and with more details, so we apologize for that. As the research has advanced, the time necessary and the number of tasks to be completed have significantly increased, so we are now working on further fund raising for the research and publication tasks.

In addition, we continue to give sifting services to other excavations, and recently some very exciting finds were discovered during our sifting of the material from the IAA excavations in the City of David, which will be published by the IAA excavators in the future. Only last week we received a large amount of dirt from the renewed excavations in Lachish directed by Prof. Yossi Garfinkel. From the finds already recovered at the field itself, it seems that the sifting of this soil will be worthwhile and promising.

To date, the Sifting Project has proven to be very important for the elaboration of the history of the Temple Mount. Even now we have new information that may well change the written history of some of the periods of the Temple Mount.

Stone Weights from the First Temple Period

Stone Weights from the First Temple Period

Opus Sectile floor tiles from Temple Mount courts during the Herodian Period

Opus Sectile floor tiles from Temple Mount courts during the Herodian Period

Roman Arrowheads from the Late Second Temple Period

Roman Arrowheads from the Late Second Temple Period

An assortment of jewelry from various periods.

An assortment of jewelry from various periods.

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