From the Temple Mount on the eve of Rosh Hashana: A flash-back to seder night…

By the end of a very busy Summer vacation, which saw a multitude of visitors descend on the sifting site, we had amassed a veritable collection of buckets of archaeological artifacts picked out by visitors, which were waiting for preliminary sorting by the archaeologists.

This week, we took advantage of the calm after the end of the vacation and sat down to sort the finds.  We are used to finding a mix of artifacts from all periods in each “basket”, and generally the modern pottery merits less attention. But from time to time there are surprises…

Fragment of a rare one-hundred-year-old Passover Seder plate.

Hillel Richman, who’s used to dealing with ancient pottery thousand of years old, spotted one particular fragment, bearing the inscription “and matzoh this night” in Hebrew. Of course, we immediately recognized the words from the “Ma Nishtana” song from Passover, but with such a small fragment, what more could we say about it?

Luckily for us, something about it looked familiar to our admin manager, Hava Elboim, who remembered a Passover Seder plate that used to hang on the wall in her grandparents’ apartment in London, England. A short search revealed that this was a type of Seder plate manufactured by the Ridgeways Pottery company in London, back in the 1920s. This popular model, sold during tens of years, was almost always colored cobalt blue on a white background, but there was also a rare, black version, like the fragment we found in the sifting, and like this set displayed in the Jewish Museum in Maryland:

The Seder plate that belonged to Anne and Sam Morris, our Admin manager’s grandparents.

So how and why did a fragment of a Passover Seder plate find its way into the soil of the Temple Mount? Was this plate bought or taken from Jews by Muslims who ate from it on the Temple Mount? In the meantime, at least, this remains a mystery. And why did we happen to find this Passover souvenir close to the eve of the Jewish New Year?? Perhaps, like the Mishna teaching connecting the New Year in the month of Tishrei to that in Nissan, the month in which Passover falls, and thinking of the impending corona lockdown, reminiscent of the experience on Passover this year, we continue to be sent reminders from the near and distant past…


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