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Update: Waqf Uses Ramadan to Violate Antiquities Law

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As we explained in our last post, during the final week of Ramadan, the Muslim Waqf made use of the closure of the Temple Mount to all non-Muslims, and limited police presence, to move the remaining mounds of soil that were originally excavated, along with the material we have been sifting, in 1999 and the early 2000s. This material contains a huge amount of artifacts from all periods of the history of the Temple Mount, including the First and Second Temple periods. This material SHOULD be sifted by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, and legally, we are the ones with the rights to move, sift/excavate, study, and publish this material. Yet again, illegally, the Waqf, with dozens of volunteers and workers, carried out excavation work, earth and stone clearance on the Temple Mount.

Section of the dirt mound that was “bitten” by excavation

According to the video we received last week, there was illegal movement of soil, stones, and artifacts from the large dirt mounds on the Eastern side of the Temple Mount. Stones were collected and used to build terraces and little walls to outline new walkways. According to Arnon Segal of Makor Rishon, the Waqf also erected a monument in memory of the Gazan paramedic, Razan al Najar, who was killed two weeks ago in the clashes along the Gaza border.

As we mentioned in our previous post, there is a supreme court ruling that prevents these mounds from being removed without archaeological supervision. Muslim authorities object to any archaeological work on the Temple Mount, so since 2004 no debris has been removed from the Temple Mount, and all material from renovations and other work has been gathered in these mounds.

This morning, our director Zachi Dvira went up to the Temple Mount to assess the damage.

The good news, if there is any, is that for most of the mounds of soil, only the outer layers seem to be damaged. We have evidence that the workers scraped the sides of the mounds and sorted finds, including some larger architectural fragments and floor tiles.

The bad news is that there are four places where the Waqf not only “cleaned” the mounds on the surface, but yet again dug into the interior of them. This is clearly a show of who is in control, and a message from the Waqf to the world that they don’t need permission from Israel to do anything on the Temple Mount, and that no one can stop them. The video from last week also showed ancient slabs being sorted and removed from the mounds. Who knows what else was discovered, and what else we won’t be able to study from this unsupervised work.

Part of a large stack of architectural marble stones from the Byzantine and Early Moslem period. (taken in 2012: Zachi Dvira)

Since the early 2000’s, near the Golden Gate, there was also a large heap of architectural fragments (mainly made of marble) that came from the dismantling of all sorts of ancient structures on the Temple Mount during past renovations. Many of these architectural fragments were probably dismantled in renovations 100 years ago, kept in storage, and then discarded to the trash heap in the 1990s. While looking at this heap in 2013, we discovered Early Islamic period inscriptions, Second Temple floor tiles, Byzantine church chancel screens, and other important artifacts. We published it and no one did anything about it. Today’s visit, and another conducted several months ago, revealed that 3/4 of that material is missing. Where all of this archaeological material is now is a complete guess. We fear that these important artifacts have been lost due to looting. None have yet been turned over to archaeologists.

We condemn the use of Ramadan and the lack of Jews and Israelis on the Temple Mount to obfuscate the goings on of the Waqf. For years, the Israeli Police have had some success in preventing work in these piles of soil. In the past, when attempts were made to remove these mounds of soil, we were also alerted to the attempt in time to save the mounds so that they can be properly and legally excavated and studied.

The police released a statement saying that they will make sure that the earth that was removed is returned to its place. We are grateful to the police for making such a strong statement and upholding the law. However, while this is great in theory, the looted artifacts will never be returned, and it is impossible for the soil to be replaced perfectly. The changes in the earth mounds will disrupt our ability to separate the sources of the debris during their eventual excavation. We had hoped to conduct a controlled removal of the soil and study the separate sources of the debris from which these piles are composed. This could lead us to a more accurate understanding of the original provenance of all of our artifacts and help us reconstruct what the Temple Mount looked like, and how it was used, in different periods.

In 2018, this should not be a problem. Taking advantage of the limited police, and ban of all non-Muslims from the Temple Mount because of Ramadan, these archaeologically rich mounds of earth have been irreconcilably damaged. This is a clear violation of the law, a violation of basic morality and respect, and an absolute destruction of the heritage of Jews as well as Christians and Muslims.  This constitutes a decade’s worth of regression in the level of enforcement of the antiquities law on the Temple Mount and needs to go viral so that the world can see what the real status quo is on the Temple Mount.

Please share this information and communicate it to the media and government officials. Make this story go viral.

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More Archaeological Destruction on the Temple Mount

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More Archaeological Destruction on the Temple Mount and Damage to Dirt that should be Sifted in the Temple Mount Sifting Project was Disturbed

A very serious incident occurred in the last few days on the Temple Mount. In the eastern part of the Temple Mount, there are mounds of earth from various illegal excavations carried out by the Waqf on the Temple Mount in the early 2000s. This is the latest of many attempts to remove this earth. The Waqf attempted to remove the mounds from the Temple Mount in 2004, in coordination with the police and Israel Antiquities Authority, but without supervision. Fortunately this attempt was forestalled by a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount. The court ruled that the earth can only be removed under archaeological supervision and with coordination with the Committee.

It should also be noted that according to an internal report written by the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2016, the excavation permit, given to us allowing us to sift the earth that was removed from the Temple Mount at the end of 1999 and at the beginning of 2004, also applies to these mounds that were just disturbed.

A controlled removal of these mounds would enable extrapolation of the separate sources of the debris from which these mounds are composed. Such a dig could provide us with much more accurate information than we currently have in studying the findings from sifting the soil that was dumped into the Kidron Valley in 1999. The information that could emerge from sifting these mounds would complement the information we currently possess and would enable us to draw a clearer, larger picture.

For years, the Israeli Police have had some success in preventing work in these mounds of soil and debris. In 2013 there was an attempt to remove them by truck and tractor on the false grounds that only park waste was removed, but thanks to the media, we were able to stop the works.

Now, during the last days of the month of Ramadan, when the Temple Mount is closed to non-Muslim visitors and police presence is limited, over a thousand people carried out excavation work, stone clearance, and the creation of terraces in these piles of earth!

This is a clear violation of the High Court’s order. This constitutes a decade’s worth of regression in the level of enforcement of the antiquities law on the Temple Mount.

The changes in the earth mounds will disrupt the ability to separate the sources of the debris during their eventual removal and archaeological excavation. Furthermore, during the course of such a manual excavation as just occurred, many archeological artifacts are routinely discovered. It is highly doubtful that any such items will reach the hands of archaeologists.

* Please share this information and communicate it to the media and government officials. This is important and needs to go viral.

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Top 10 Topics from 5777

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I can’t believe that another year has passed. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I want to take a minute to look back at the crazy year we have had. To be honest, we have had a lot of ups and downs, but through it all, our biggest strength has been our supporters. Your generosity and messages of encouragement have helped us to continue our important work and have helped us climb those mountains of bad news that have faced us this past year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

So let’s take a look at the past year! I went through our English Facebook Page (follow us if you haven’t already!) and tallied up the posts that made the most impact: most likes, shares, views, and comments. From finds, to videos, to urgent appeals for support, you have stood by us and shared this with us.

10. Early Islamic Artifacts

This post talked about some Early Islamic Period artifacts and linked to our blog post about the possible destruction layer we uncovered.

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Golden Mosaics from the Dome of the Rock

9. Evidence of the Greeks on the Temple Mount

This post celebrated the holiday of Channukkah and talked about Greek finds on the Temple Mount including a coin with the face of Antiochus Epiphanes IV who is the villain of the Channukkah story. Check out the whole story HERE.

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Greek coin with the face of King Antiochus Epiphanes IV

8. Archaeologists Restore Temple Mount Flooring from Waqf’s Trash

This was an article about our reconstructed Second Temple floor patterns published by Haaretz. Our floors have always been a popular topic. 🙂 Here is a link to the whole article: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.740548

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7. Lost and Found: A modern day bracelet

We found a modern day 10K gold bracelet and are (still) trying to find the owner. It has an Israeli girl’s name written in English letters. It is very small and may have belonged to a child. It was lost on the Temple Mount before 1999. Share the story and help us find the owner!

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6. Our video asking you to “Join Us” in our Annual Appeal.

Thank you to everyone who liked, shared, and donated in our Annual Appeal. Knowing that we have consistent supporters really makes us feel like you are part of our Sifting Project Family. Don’t forget, it’s an annual appeal so you will be hearing from me again ;).

5. Six-Day War Artifacts in the Temple Mount Soil.

Machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges were found in sifting the soil from the Temple Mount. The artifacts tell the story of the unification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. Check out the whole article in the Times of Israel and watch the video we put together in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Jerusalem.

4. Evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount

Last October, UNESCO adopted a biased and political resolution that disregarded Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount, cast doubts regarding the Jewish connection to the Western Wall, and protested against the Israel Antiquities Authority’s attempts to supervise construction work on and around the Temple Mount in order to preserve the antiquities and other archaeological data. In response to this resolution, we wrote a blog post that outlined a lot of the archaeological evidence that we have of the Jewish temples on the Temple Mount. This was widely shared and is one of the most important posts we have written. Please read and share because the Temple Denial Movement is real and we have to know how to respond to it with educated answers. Click here for the full text of the post.

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Artifacts from the First and Second Temples

3. The Most Powerful Video about UNESCO and the Temple Denial Movement

This video was put out by Channel 2 News here in Israel. Seen in Hebrew by more than 1 MILLION people on Facebook alone, we added English subtitles so that it could be shared with people around the world. It is important to respect the narratives of people today, but this needs to be in addition to, and not at the expense of, real history. It is also easier to find common ground when relating to each other through facts and history than solely through hard-won respect for beliefs and narratives. Please watch and share.

2. Our Temple Mount Tour videos

Over the past few weeks, we have posted 11 (so far) videos touring the Temple Mount with Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira and talking about different features on the Temple Mount. All of these videos have been very popular and we promise to keep making them. Here is a link to the whole playlist on YouTube.

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1. Closing the Sifting Project

When we were forced to stop sifting the Temple Mount material this past April, we were all in shock. How were we going to move forward? How were we going to continue our research? We turned to you and let you know about the situation. You shared the video hundreds of times and it reached more than 34,000 people. We were able to raise over 200,000 shekels and because of that we were able to continue our research this year while we try to come up with the funding to resume the sifting. We cannot thank you enough for your support. At our darkest hour, you made such a difference to us and to our project. Government help takes a long time to initiate and we aren’t in the clear yet, but knowing that we can count on you makes all the difference.

Coming to New York!

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Start spreading the news. We’re coming! We want to be a part of it, New York, New York!

Zachi Dvira will be going to New York on a speaking tour from April 20th through April 30th. He will be visiting various Jewish organizations in and around Manhattan, and may even be making his way to New Jersey for a day. He will be speaking about the counter evidence to the Temple Denial Movement, the archaeological evidence from the Sifting Project, and other research and artifacts from other excavations in Jerusalem that provide evidence of the First and Second Temple.

These lectures are a fun way to help you learn the facts so that you can counter the Temple Denial Movement. Zachi has been studying the history of the Temple Mount for over 18 years. As well as being one of the founders of the Sifting Project, he has also had access to some unpublished research in archives from the British Mandate Period that shed a lot of light on the history of the Temple Mount.

If you are interested in attending one of these lectures, let us know! Email development@tmsifting.org and we will send you the specific times and places so that you can choose the one that works best with your schedule.

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We are also interested in perhaps doing a gala event; if not this trip, then perhaps the next. If you or your organization would like to host such an event, let us know so that we can start planning! It would be a great way to raise awareness about the project and the history of the Temple Mount as well as help us raise funds to publish our research.

Temple Denial: The Reality

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Getting serious for a minute. The following has many links to more information. Please read and share these sources so that this whole Temple Denial thing can become less of a fuzzy/taboo topic that goes unmentioned but is important.

All of the media that has been coming out about Israel and the Temple Mount that supports the Temple Denial movement just hurts my heart. As a researcher and an archaeologist, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that this “debate” is real and that the Temple Mount’s relationship to the people of the world is up for discussion.

coexist_by_piotr_mlodozeniecThe Temple Mount is a holy place to over half of the world’s population. It is a holy place to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and any attempt to deny the right of any one religion to feel a connection to a place as central to religious belief as the Temple Mount is wrong. Do Muslims have a right to pray on the Temple Mount? Yes. Do Jews and Christians have the right to have the Temples and the Temple Mount as a central piece of their religious beliefs? Yes.

Temple Denial takes away that right. Temple Denial says that those beliefs are worthless. There was never anything on the Temple Mount that relates to you. Even without any evidence from the past, this is a statement that is antithetical to the intellectuals crying out against propaganda and “fake news.” It is antithetical to those world leaders and UNESCO itself that signed the charter on Intangible Heritage, stating that those things we cannot prove or see are worth protecting. The rights of people to believe in a historical aspect of their religion is worth protecting.

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Artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods

That being said, there IS evidence of the long history of the Temple Mount. After the UNESCO resolution that named holy places like the Temple Mount as wholly Muslim, and disregarded non-arabic names for those places, we posted an article about the archaeological evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount. That resolution not only denied the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, but the Christian one as well.

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A booklet published in 2014 and handed out to tourists on the Temple Mount

The Temple Denial Movement was begun in recent decades as Palestinian political and religious leaders began claiming that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. This claim, despite being counter to Islamic tradition, became canonized within Palestinian religious and political circles. Since the 2000 Camp David Summit, during which Yasir Arafat asserted that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem, “Temple Denial” has spread with increased virulence within the Middle East and the West, now also seemingly supported by the UN and UNESCO.

Arutz 2 interviewed our director, Zachi Dvira, to discuss this, and then followed up that interview with an amazing and viral segment (below) about the Temple Denial Movement and the Muslim claim to the site. As they said, “a narrative is a good thing, and it is possible to respect the values of each side. But there is also that small matter that is named: history, truth, and facts.”

It is unsettling, but many people are using the Palestinian narrative and that of the Temple Mount to promote anti-semitism and lies. As we saw in the Arutz 2 video (2:55) and the extended version in our video about the project (0:59), the regular person on the street in the Arab Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem wholeheartedly believes that there was nothing on the Temple Mount before the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

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Gaby teaches UCLA students on the Temple Mount on Jan 1, 2017 (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

This is due to the systematic spread of false information. Dr. Barkay just this past week was brought before the Israeli police on the Temple Mount in an attempt to evict him from the place for simply using the term “Temple Mount” while teaching the history of the Mount to a student tour-group. This followed the physical abuse of our laboratory staff on the Temple Mount by Waqf guards just a few months earlier for discussing the archaeological history of the site. Our own Frankie Snyder has also had issues guiding groups on the Temple Mount for showing images of reconstructions of the First or Second Temple.

This isn’t funny and this isn’t going to go away. The only possible recourse we have is to energetically share the truth about the Temple Mount. We commit to doing so. In light of all the recent media attempts to discredit the real history of the Temple Mount, we are more dedicated than ever to publishing our research on the archaeological history of the Temple Mount and sharing those truths with the scientific community and the public. It pains me that this is necessary, but we will strive to do our part in discrediting the Temple Denial Movement.

Thank you to all of you who have supported us over the years and who have given to support our research in our crowdfunding campaign. The messages and emails that we get from you, like this one, help strengthen our resolve and let us know that we are doing the right thing:

“Your work becomes more important everyday! With the UN decision and the US abstaining, and Kerry’s speech, your work is vital to bringing the truth to light!!!! Please know that the government’s attitude and treatment of Israel does not represent all Americans!!! I love Israel! I volunteered at TMSP 6 years ago on tour with Gordon Franz. It is a life changing experience! Keep up the amazing work bringing the truth to light!!!” –Lindsay from the US

May 2017 bring the true history of the Temple Mount to light.

 

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