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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.

So a Congressman, a Senator, and an Archaeologist walk onto the Temple Mount…

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We’ve been hinting at some big stuff happening in our office. Well two weeks ago we had some very special guests. Dr. Barkay gave a tour of the Temple Mount to five members of the US Congress; Mac Thornberry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Henry Cuellar, Tom Graves, Steve Russell, and Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, as well as their families.

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Temple Mount Tour Group

The Temple Mount, especially recently, has been at the center of many disputes and violence. Our guests thought that it was important to include the Temple Mount in their trip so that they could get a much better idea of the realities of the situation, and they weren’t wrong. Actually seeing the Temple Mount and the people who pray there, the guards, the police, the visitors, and the interactions among them all is a useful tool for better understanding the complexities of today’s political situation on the Temple Mount. Additionally, the Temple Mount is beautiful and every building and stone has a rich and fascinating history that makes the site better than some museums for understanding the history of Jerusalem.

We are so grateful to the delegation for choosing to tour with us. They asked really insightful questions and I think that they learned a lot from Dr. Barkay’s immense knowledge of history. Unfortunately, at 1:30 in the afternoon, the Temple Mount is only open to visitors for an hour. After going through security, we only had 40 minutes to spend on the Mount itself. Though as Dr. Barkay said, “I could spend weeks here talking about this place,” he did a very thorough, though brief, tour of all the major monuments and sites upon the Mount, and best of all, I got it on camera. We now have more videos (to be edited) and added to our Temple Mount Tour series on YouTube. At the end of our Temple Mount Tour, Gaby was asked about our project. Check out his answer!


 

Our Job

Part of our job as archaeologists is to make sure that people understand the past. We have a unique ability to share the history of the Temple Mount and will happily share that with anyone who is willing to listen. We are actively working to share our research in order to combat the Temple Denial Movement and make sure that people recognize the Jewish and Christian connection to the Temple Mount and that it isn’t ignored or overlooked. Our research can provide the evidence necessary to help people respond to the Temple Denial movement. It is part of our mission to have our scientific research encourage educated discussion on the history of the Temple Mount. We do this through the blog, our YouTube channel, and we hope to be able to publish our research soon.

If you support our mission, please consider donating to help our project continue doing it’s important research.

To get involved, go to www.half-shekel.org.

What do YOU want to know?

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Help us decide what to film next!

We’ve been posting a lot of videos lately on our YouTube channel (subscribe here) and on our Facebook page (follow us here) that take you on a virtual tour of the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount has a rich history spanning thousands of years. We have some Bronze Age material (blog post coming soon!), a lot of evidence for the first and second Temples, the Romans, the Byzantines, the first Muslims, the Crusaders and the Knights Templar, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, and even the British and today’s tourists.

Below is a list of the videos we’ve already posted. You can click the link to a specific video below, or check out the whole playlist HERE.

BUT, what we want to know is, what do you want to know? Where should we stop on our next tour? What should we explain? What period intrigues you? What artifact do you want to know more about? What have you always wanted to ask, but never had the opportunity to do so? NOW is that chance. In the comments, let us know what to film on our next Temple Mount tour so that we can share it with you at home?

  1. Solomon’s Stables on the Temple Mount: The History and the Destruction
  2. Before “Al-Aqsa,” what did we call the “Temple Mount?”
  3. Barclay’s Gate and the Mughrabi Gate
  4. Major Features of the Temple Mount
  5. Jewish Traditions about the Temple Mount
  6. History of the Al-Aqsa Mosque
  7. The Political Complexity of the Temple Mount
  8. The Golden Gate and the Wooden Beams from Al-Aqsa
  9. The Shushan Gate and the Temple

Don’t Forget!

Don’t forget, these videos are part of the long research process of our project. If you like what you see and want more of it, consider supporting our research through our website at www.half-shekel.org. For a limited time only, every dollar and every shekel is DOUBLED by a generous matching donor. You can double your impact and get cool gifts at the same time. Join our TMSP family now and make a real difference in protecting the heritage of the Temple Mount.

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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?”

Solomon’s Stables: History and Destruction

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Learn More about Solomon’s Stables!

Hello everyone! We are starting a new video series on YouTube taking you on a tour of the Temple Mount! Check out the first video and see Solomon’s Stables! This structure has a rich history and is now the Al-Marwani Mosque. This is also the area of the Temple Mount from where most of our material originated.

Here are some of the highlights from the video and some more interesting facts about the site!

Fun Facts about Solomon’s Stables on the Temple Mount

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Crusader Horseshoe Nails

The structure housed the horses of the Knights Templar during the Crusades. We have found many horseshoe nails, arrowheads, coins, and bits of armor from the Crusader period.

On the stones in the piers that hold up the vaulted ceiling of the structure, you can see the draft margin from the Herodian period. The other sides imitate this poorly, so we know these stones are in secondary use, originating from the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount platform. The structure was constructed in the Early Islamic Period.

As reconstruction, earthquakes, or other building happened on the Temple Mount over the last millennium, the debris would be removed to the Eastern side of the Temple Mount. Therefore, the material we are sifting is not necessarily specific to this corner of the Mount. Rather it is a sample of many different sites across the Temple Mount and shows us bits and pieces of the whole history of the Temple Mount.

There is possibly another structure beneath Solomon’s Stables because the walls of the Temple Mount platform could not hold so much soil without further support and the bedrock is very low.

The Destruction:

  1. In 1996, renovation began in Solomon’s Stables in order to convert it into a usable mosque (Al-Marwani Mosque). The wall between the Triple Gate and Solomon’s Stables was breached to create an entrance to the new mosque. Dirt heaps were removed from within the structure.
  2. Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables

    Digging in front of Solomon’s Stables (nov. 1999)

    In 1999, a new monumental (huge) entrance way was opened. This was done by bulldozer and without archaeological supervision. This was initiated by the Northern Flank of the Islamic Movement in Israel in coordination with the Waqf. Prime Minister Barak gave oral permission for this new entrance as well on a smaller scale. Legally in Israel, any construction must first complete a salvage excavation to record any archaeology in the proposed construction zone. Especially in a place as sensitive and historic as the Temple Mount, this excavation is not only necessary legally but also ethically. No such excavation took place.

  3. You can still see evidence of different structures from different periods in the last millennium, but these structures were partially removed in the bulldozing without being recorded.
  4. The soil from the initial 1996 cleaning and the subsequent 1999 bulldozing was first dumped along the Eastern wall within the Temple Mount complex.
  5. From these heaps along the Eastern wall, 60 truckloads of soil was then moved to a municipal garbage dump where it got mixed with garbage and we could not sift it.
  6. After protest, the remaining 300 truckloads of earth were dumped in the Kidron Valley. This is area K.
  7. The paved plaza was also lowered and the 34 truckloads of earth was also dumped along the eastern side or in a compound in town. We call this area T.
  8. Some material remains on the Eastern side of the Temple Mount and will not be removed any time in the near future because of politics.
  9. We have completed about 70% of the sifting and hope to finish the remaining 30% when we have the budget to resume the sifting.

Reminder

If you would like to support our research, right now is a GREAT time to do that! Every donation made at www.half-shekel.org will be MATCHED and DOUBLED by a very generous supporter of our project.

Jerusalem Day Activities

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Where will you be on Jerusalem Day?

Here are our plans. Make sure to stop by and say Hello!

21:00 (May 23rd – the night before) – Hebrew Lecture at Ohel Nechama by Zachi Dvira. 3 Shufan St. They have activities beginning at 19:55.

8:00 AM – tour of the Temple Mount. Please email development@tmsifting for more information.

ALL DAY!! We are talking 9AM to 9PM sharing some of our special finds and selling some of our amazing replicas in the Old City. Stop by and touch a piece of the Second Temple floor. Drop a shekel in our Tzedakkah box or buy your mom a replica coin as a belated Mother’s Day gift. We will be in the main square of the Jewish Quarter by the Moriah jewelry store.

 

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Violence on the Temple Mount

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Hello everyone.

This is going to be a very disturbing post about an incident that happened two days ago. A group of our researchers was attacked while on an archaeological learning tour of the Temple Mount.

We had doubts if we should publish these kind of things, which do not deal directly with our research and the goals of our project, but since it is already widely circulated in the media, and the details are not clear or accurate, we decided to post the facts about what exactly happened and that we are all safe and sound.

This week we conducted two tours for our staff of researchers. On Monday we toured archaeological excavation in Jerusalem to learn about new discoveries at current and ongoing excavations in Jerusalem. We were guided by the excavation directors at various sites and it was a very positive experience for the whole staff.

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We learned about new finds at Givati

On Wednesday, we went to the Temple Mount itself. This tour was designated for our new research staff and our directors Gaby and Zachi taught about the archaeology of the Temple Mount. At first, the tour went very well and was very interesting. We learned about the history of the current structures on the Temple Mount and were able to identify many building materials in secondary use on the site. We had the chance to go into in depth discussions at various spots on the Temple Mount and reconsider common assumptions. Below: Learning about archaeology on the Temple Mount.

Gabrial Barkay gudiing the group

Gabrial Barkay gudiing the group

We walked freely and independently with no policemen or Waqf guards following us. For those of you who are not aware, the tours for religious Jews at the site are limited. Because of the objection of the Muslim organizations to religious Jewish presence at the site, religious Jews are accompanied by policemen that guard them as well as Waqf guards that look carefully at their lips to ensure that they do not mumble any prayers. Non-Muslim prayer at the site is forbidden. Since our group didn’t include any member who outwardly looked religious, we were treated as regular tourists. At the entrance, we immediately encountered the Waqf’s guards who shouted at one of our members that she could not enter the site with only a short sleeved shirt. Luckily she had a scarf in her bag that she could cover herself with. Later on, when we had a long talk near the Al-Aqsa mosque about the different construction phases of the building. One Waqf guard, who was nearby, decided we had spent too much time standing in one place and that we should move on. We did so.

In spite of those two, rather common, incidents, the tour continued with no serious interruptions and we could freely move around as any other tourist can. After two hours, we reached the remaining debris heaps that are still lying on the Temple Mount in the eastern olive grove (the same material that we have been sifting for the last 11 years). We stopped under the shade of one of the olive trees, and one of our group members sat down while listening to our director speak about the dirt. She realized that she was sitting on a rusty, modern, bent nail and picked it up. One Waqf guard who was watching us from a distance began shouting at her. He came over and she handed the nail over to him. He said we should not pick up olive pits.

At no point, did any member of our group pick anything from any of the olive trees or pick up any olive pits from the ground.

The guard begun following us, and asked us to leave the area. Gaby and Zachi continued explaining things as we moved, and we also discussed a large heap of ancient marble architectural fragments that appeared near the path. Then for some reason, the Waqf guard, and another Waqf official who joined him, ordered us to leave the site immediately. We didn’t understand that they wanted us completely off of the Temple Mount. We wanted to go up to the raised platform and ask the police to interfere, but the guards told us that the police are not the ones in charge on the Temple Mount and that they are the ones in charge. They can ask us to leave before visiting hours are over without a reason. They pushed us and ordered us to leave the site immediately while yelling at us for not respecting the site because we were stealing their olive pits. Again, the guard knew that our staff member had picked up a modern nail because he had put it in his pocket.

The police are scattered in many spots on the Temple Mount, but there were no police in sight on the eastern side. We wanted to go up to the upper level so that we could get eye contact with a policeman, but the Waqf officials physically prevented us from doing so. Zachi tried to call the police, but there was no answer on the phone.

One of our staff members (who would like to be anonymous) decided to take photos of the Waqf yelling at Zachi and getting very close to him, but two more Waqf guards came over and they started yelling and pushing him while blocking his photos. The situation was clearly getting out of hand. At this point, the guards pushed him, he fell backward onto the ground and all four guards started beating him. Thank goodness he did not need medical treatment, but he did walk away with several bruises from being kicked in the stomach and back as well as a cut on his neck that was bleeding. Below: camera blocked by Waqf guards – pictures taken before being pushed to the ground.

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Zachi finally managed to reach the police by calling a policeman he knows on his cellphone. The officer immediately reported the incident on the radio. Zachi then began video filming the Waqf guards beating our staff member on the ground, and their focus then switched to him. One guard attacked him and grabbed his phone. He continuously pushed Zachi away and wouldn’t return the phone. He erased the video (we are in the process of restoring the deleted files).

The police still didn’t arrive.

Zachi told the Waqf guards that their actions were disrespectful to Islam and to this holy site, and that he would file a complaint about them in the Waqf administrative office. At this point, the guards decided to give him back his phone and speak differently, although there was still a lot of yelling on both sides. Only then did the police finally arrive. We managed to show some pictures of the altercation from another camera, and two Waqf guards were immediately arrested. We were safely escorted off the Temple Mount by police.

The police took this incident very seriously and urged us all to file complaints and give testimony. We spent the rest of the day at the police station. As far as we know, the court allowed the police to extend the arrest of three Waqf guards involved until 11:00am this morning. We very much hope that the police will finish the investigation quickly and press charges against them.

This incident was very disturbing and is deeply felt by all of our staff and not just the 7 of us that were on the tour. For some of us, it was our first experience with the Temple Mount. Ironically, before the tour, we took all precautions to ensure that the tour would go smoothly without interruption. Zachi Dvira and Gabriel Barkay are very experienced in guiding tours at this highly politically sensitive site, and know how to avoid negative encounters with the Muslim authorities. Yet this time, it seems that our professional interest in spots and issues that are uncommon among tourists aroused their suspicion. The Waqf’s demands were unsolicited and absurd, especially when they prevented us from seeking out the police. Officially, the Waqf guards have no authority upon tourists walking in the open courts of the Mount. Their only authority is inside the Mosques, in which tourists are not allowed. The only official authority are the police, and it is sad that these types of incidents are often overlooked due to political concerns and that the Waqf guards can harass innocent tourist. Since this event, we have received many other testimonies from tourists who were harassed by Waqf guards, and also about other cases where tourists were bullied and physically pushed out of the site.

The Sifting Project is an archaeological research project and does not deal with the political status of the Temple Mount. On the other hand, we are not deterred by conducting research in such a sensitive site with limited access to it. We see it as a challenge, and we will continue to pursue all possibilities in order to discover the archaeological evidence that exists in the site, preserve and study it, and publish our results to the public worldwide.

Thank you to all who support our cause. We are unhurt but shaken. This incident has only strengthened our resolve to study the Temple Mount – all periods of the Temple Mount – and share the archaeological truths about its history in an attempt to encourage educated discussion about this most holy and also contested site.

May we see peace in our time.