Temple Mount Sifting Project
By Dr. Ron Beals, Volunteer
January 6, 2009 Jerusalem Israel
While many people consider Monday a “blue day” this past one (yesterday) was utterly tremendous. It was a very cool (30° F) morning as I set out for the Temple Mount Sifting Project. This project is located in Emek Tzurim. This area is better known to many by the New Testament Name of the Valley of Jehosephat. It is located between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives.
Since we were expecting guests at the site I decided to walk to the local supermarket to get some bourekas to have with our “morning tea.” The aroma in the market bakery was totally overwhelming but I restrained myself and finally boarded bus 19 to the Hebrew University where I would begin the mile long walk down the hill to the work site.
On arrival, I deposited my treasures in the office and saw Dr. Gabby Barkay, Dr. Kay Prag (an English archaeologist with special experience in Israeli and Jerusalem exploration) and Dr. Scott Stripling a volunteer at the site who teaches archaeology at a Sugarland, TX school. Dr. Barkay is the Professor of Archaeology at both the Bar Ilan and Hebrew Universities. He is well known in international circles for his archaeological work as well as for being the director of this reclamation project.
Dr. Prag was here to investigate the work that is being done. They were soon joined by Zachi Zweig, one of the primary investigators and the major instigator of this project. He has done extensive investigation on Temple Mount archaeology.
After their tour through the project we all took a break for tea and were treated to a two hour discussion and commentary on the archaeological endeavors in Israel, in Jerusalem and specifically what had been done near the Temple Mount. The names of notables like Robinson, Robert Hamilton, Kathleen Kenyon and others were flying around like “old friends.”
As the discussion continued Dr. Prag was extolling the great work that Dr. Barkay and Zachi Zweig were doing. Then Dr. Barkay made a comment that was absolutely astonishing.
It seems that all the extensive work that has been done has been in the vicinity of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. But there have never been any real archaeological digs on the Temple Mount itself or dealing with artifacts from the Temple Mount.
There are many academic flaws with this project since the materials have been removed by the Islamic Waqf and are not located at the original site. Yet, the work of this project is the first evaluation of materials and artifacts directly from the Temple Mount and therefore of extraordinary importance.
For centuries after the destruction of the Temple, either foreign rulers or the Islamic Waqf have forbidden any work on the mount itself. In addition they have never allowed access to the site or to anything underground.
Now, for the very first time, this project is sifting, finding and evaluating artifacts that were excavated from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf and deposited in a Jerusalem valley. There were no archaeologists to oversee these activities nor was there any assessment of the damage that this destruction was doing to the Temple Mount and it’s history.
To me this was a stunning revelation. I have read Biblical Archaeology Review and other information about the Temple and the Temple Mount. But I had never realized or thought about the fact that at no time had anyone been allowed the opportunity to actually explore the site itself or look at the artifacts that were there. It seems ironic that the most significant place for Judaism and Christianity has never had the opportunity to be scientifically and archaeologically scrutinized by experts.
What is perhaps even more ironic is that this project has and is being funded almost exclusively by private donations. However because of the current state of economics and the world political situation, the funding has almost “dried up.”
During the past few months the funding for this has been dramatically reduced and they have had to terminate a large number of the staff. They have continued this project mainly with volunteers and a skeleton staff. Last year at this time there were usually about six or more staff members working diligently daily. Now there are usually two to three members.
One of the truly wonderful aspects of this project has been the educational component. There is a small area designated for groups to come to visit. Frequently both school and tour groups come to where they can experience the artifacts that have been removed from the very “House of God” from Solomon’s and Herod’s times.
School groups are actually being taught the validity of the Biblical account and that this land and particularly this Temple Mount was existent and is their heritage. They also have the opportunity to experience the project by helping sift through buckets of dirt and rocks and find real artifacts. The response is dramatic.
It is my hope that some may find this work important enough to help support these efforts. For those who would like to see more about what they have done go to: https://tmsifting.org/en/ .
Ronald D. Beals, MD
IN ISRAEL: 12A Mendele, Jerusalem, 050-881-4136
IN US: East Texas Biblical Prophecy Forum
9030 Old Hickory Rd.Tyler, TX 75703, 903-561-6274