January 8, 2013 Leave a comment
The excavation area is on the south side of the Temple Mount.
This video and others are available on the blog of The Key to David’s City here.
HT: Ferrell Jenkins
February 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Why is Israeli government covering up Muslim effort to erase any trace of Jewish history on Temple Mount? Archeology expert: Excavations barbaric, a crime
Ira Pasternack couldn’t believe his eyes. The tractor’s huge blade was lifted high up and then brought down with great force, shattering the ancient floors on Temple Mount. The large clods of earth exposed by the work were cast aside by the mustachioed driver. Yet even an amateur archeologist could spot the priceless remnants of Jewish, Christian and Muslim history being cast away.
A few hours earlier, on a steaming July day in 2007, Pasternack was sent to Temple Mount in his role as an Israel Antiquities Authority inspector, in order to supervise excavation works at the holy site, which in the past boasted two Jewish Temples. This marked the first such project at the site since the 1967 Six-Day War, as the area’s sensitivity could prompt a political and diplomatic flare-up, thereby discouraging any such work.
According to specific Antiquities Authority instructions, any digging at the site was not allowed to exceed 60 centimeters (roughly two feet) and was not to be undertaken using mechanical equipment. However, reports drafted by Pasternnack and other sources, exposed for the first time by Yedioth Ahronoth Friday, indicate that workers largely ignored the instructions.
Much of the work was done using a tractor, continued during the night with the help of a flashlight, reached deeper than the permit allowed for. Moreover, the clods of earth removed from the site, which apparently comprised valuable remnants from the two Jewish Temples, were thrown away to an improvised garbage dump by members of the Waqf (the administrative Muslim body in charge of Temple Mount.)
Archeology expert Dr. Gabai Barkai, a world-renowned expert on Temple era excavations, was shocked by the reported work: “How could one dig up such sensitive area at night? How could one dig using mechanical equipment? Every such move is a crime. This is first-rate barbarity.”
Why is report secret?
An investigative report by Yedioth Ahronoth revealed the ongoing failure of various Israeli authorities in safeguarding the rare archeological treasures found on Temple Mount. Information elicited by the newspaper showed that the Waqf is consistently erasing any trace of Jewish history at the site.
Mideastern affairs expert Dr. Mordechai Kedar says these acts are undertaken in the framework of an Arab practice known as “erasing the signs,” aimed at eliminating the remnants of any civilization that preceded Islam.
Members of the State Comptroller’s Office launched an investigation into the affair four years ago and drafted a report about it. However, the Knesset’s State Control Committee decided to impose a gag order on the report for “security reasons.”
However, Israeli intelligence officials told Yedioth Ahronoth there is no reason to prevent the report’s publication. A senior Shin Bet Security Service official said following the Committee’s session on the matter: “I’m ashamed. This is akin to cheapening national security to the lowest point possible.”
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has also questioned the gag order. “There is no connection whatsoever between the failure to publish the report and national security. As far as I know, both Mossad and Shin Bet said there is no reason not to publish the report…apparently there are other considerations here, pertaining to political motives.”
Conversations and interviews held with dozens of officials involved in drafting the State Comptroller’s secret report indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among the senior officials interested in shelving the document. Attorney Yisrael Caspi, who represents a group fighting the destruction on Temple Mount, says the PM is unequivocally responsible for the ongoing failure.
“One cannot underestimate the prime minister’s responsibility for the state of affairs on Temple Mount; one can only refer to it as absolute responsibility,” he said. “We know with certainty that nothing happens on Temple Mount without the advance knowledge and permission of the Prime Minister’s Office and its head. All the criticism, all the negligence, all the failures, the entire cover-up and the helplessness in dealing with the matter – and therefore all the historical responsibility – are his.”
Caspi says Netanyahu does not want to be reminded of the “historical scandal” of handing over the holy site known in Judaism as Solomon’s Stables to the Waqf during the PM’s first term in office, in the 1990s. “This turned Solomon’s Stables, an amazing archeological site…into a place that Jews are not allowed to enter and into the largest mosque in the State of Israel,” he says.
“These days too, three tractors are being used on Temple Mount,” Caspi says. “Construction materials are also continuing to be brought into Temple Mount in violation of police pledges…Temple Mount looks today like a construction materials’ warehouse…materials being brought in today will be used for illegal works tomorrow.”
In another disturbing case, a ministerial committee approved the use of two giant generators on Temple Mount. “At times you’re just stunned by the lack of wisdom in our conduct on Temple Mount,” Attorney Caspi says. “You can’t believe these things are happening. We are playing into our enemies’ hands and shooting ourselves in the foot, because these generators can provide enough electricity for half the city. Why are they needed?”
“Now, there is a regular supply of electricity to Temple Mount. The State of Israel has no interest whatsoever in allowing the Muslims the possibility to riot and barricade themselves there.”
Waqf denies ‘false charges’
After the opening of the Western Wall Tunnels in 1996 and the subsequent riots at the site, then-PM Netanyahu agreed to unilateral Waqf steps in the area. The Waqf almost immediately embarked on excavation work, and two months after the tunnels were opened the Islamic body inaugurated the largest mosque in Israel at the large space associated with Solomon’s stables, thereby banning Jews from entering the site.
Two years later, the Waqf inaugurated another mosque, this time below the al-Aqsa Mosque nearby. As part of the work, the Waqf cleared great amounts of soil from the area, built a new floor and installed new pipes, while drilling into ancient stones. Moreover, Waqf members painted over rare Jewish works at the site. All this work was undertaken without Israeli supervision, and one can only imagine the kinds of cultural, historical and religious treasures lost in the process.
In 1999, the Waqf went a step further and dug a hole in the Temple Mount plaza, arguing that it needed to build an emergency exit for the mosque. The work was done by tractors, with some 250 trucks removing about 12,000 tons of soil replete with archeological findings from the site. The soil was dumped at a city garbage dump and also near the Kidron River.
Archeologists Gabi Barkai and Zachi Zweig are now sifting through the latter pile as part of a special project, and have already discovered priceless findings attesting to the administrative work undertaken in the first Temple. The archeologists also found decorated utensils from the King Solomon era, as well as coins and clay dating back to the second Temple. Hundreds of artifacts have already been put on show for the benefit of the general public.
Dr. Ayelet Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center’s Jewish archeology Institute, witnessed the digging at the Temple Mount plaza in 1999. “For me as an archeologist it was a shock; it was like performing heart surgery with a hoe. The Waqf’s objective is to not only turn Temple Mount into a holy compound, but to turn it into a ‘built up Aqsa’ for Muslims only,” she says. “One need not be an archeologist to understand there’s destruction here.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued the following response to the story: “As opposed to the claims, the body that imposed a gag order on the (State Comptroller’s) report was not the government, but rather, the sub-committee of the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affair’s Committee…any argument alleging that the report is not being published as result of irrelevant reasons is baseless and disconnected from reality.”
The Waqf issued the following response: “The Waqf’s management was sorry to hear the claims made in the story pertaining to the Waqf’s policy on Temple Mount. In the Waqf management’s view, all these claims are baseless and constitute false charges. Our official policy is to preserve and respect any human heritage. You are invited to visit the mosque and see for yourself well preserved Roman, Byzantine and Crusader artifacts, among other items.”
HT: Joseph I. Lauer
February 25, 2012 Leave a comment
Archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar warns: The Waqf is planning to unite all the mosques on the Temple Mount into one.
Arutz Sheva has the report:
Archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar warned on Thursday about the plans of the Muslim religious authority, the Waqf, for the Temple Mount.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Mazar said that for the past 12 years, the Waqf has constantly built on the Temple Mount in an attempt to implement its final plan: the establishment of a huge mosque on the Mount.
“There is no order there and no one to uphold the law,” she said. “No one can enforce the law there. Not the Israel Antiquities Authority, not the Nature and Parks Authority and not the city of Jerusalem. The police are there but they are precluded from enforcing.”
The Temple Mount was left in the hands of the Waqf following Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967, a decision of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. The Waqf has taken advantage of this and removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the most Jewish holy site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property”.
Police, in an attempt to appease the Waqf, discriminate against Jews. They limit the number of Jewish worshippers allowed on the Temple Mount at one time in order to prevent conflict with Muslim worshippers. They often close the Mount to Jews in response to Muslim riots – despite evidence that Muslim riots have been planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.
Mazar, a member of a group of Israelis who work to prevent the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount, said that the State Comptroller wrote a report which exposed serious findings about Israeli authorities’ inability to enforce the law on the Temple Mount, but noted that the report has remained confidential to this day.
“The Comptroller produced a thorough report and questioned all the right people. He came to important conclusions which so far have not been published. Our group has demanded and continues to demand that the contents of the report be published.”
She warned that the excavations of antiquities being performed on the Temple Mount by the Waqf may lead to disaster.
“It has been going on for 12 years. They’re digging there as if it’s a construction site. There is a danger that the ground will collapse under thousands of Muslims. It endangers the safety of the people. There must be engineering control over this huge monument. Every stone on the Temple Mount may contain some of the most important antiquities in the world.”
Mazar added, “I do not accept the argument that this could lead to a world war. The Temple Mount is at the center of Jerusalem. We’re not harming the Muslim rituals. We only want to enforce the law and order so that a disaster can be prevented. The Waqf cannot be trusted. If something collapses there the Western Wall may also be damaged, because the Temple Mount is on a round hill and its edges will be in danger.”
Mazar said the Waqf’s final plan is to unite all the mosques on the Temple Mount and create one big mosque. She added that it has been working for years to put the plan into practice and warned that if this happens, Jews will not be able to go to the Temple Mount.
“We know that the Waqf’s goal is to unite all one the mosques, and unfortunately today it is far from being just an illusion,” she said. “We will definitely weep over this plan in the future.”
Yes, the Waqf goal is to removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and make sure that no proper archaeology work is ever done. This means the utter destruction any and all archaeological evidence.
November 21, 2011 Leave a comment
The controversy surrounding the work of Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem is the focus of a recent article written by Morey Altman for the Jerusalem Report. At the heart of the conflict is the role of the Bible in archaeological interpretation.
Eilat Mazar readily concedes the use of Scripture as a guide but acknowledges the limitations of the Bible as an historical document. “The fact is all historical documents are biased because they are written by people.”
But she’s also critical of those who too readily dismiss the use of the Bible as a reference tool. “You don’t want to go the other extreme and ignore a document that’s potentially helpful. Information at hand, whether we’re talking about the Bible or historical documents, may direct us a certain way, but the minute you start excavating, you are obliged by very high scientific standards,” she maintains. “We can use the Bible as a starting point, just as archaeologists working in the Near East have always done,” she tells The Report. “People investigated what they knew, and they knew the Bible.”
Nevertheless, Finkelstein’s concerns go beyond the validity of Scripture. “It is not clear whether the wall was an outer wall or an inner wall within the city,” he tells The Report. “And in any event, no 10th century BCE city-wall has ever been found in Jerusalem.”
I hope that Finkelstein wasn’t trying to make the argument that Mazar could not have found a 10th-century wall because no 10th-century wall has ever been found.
The article concludes with a quotation from Mazar that she still has a few secrets.
November 11, 2011 Leave a comment
Archaeology’s Rebel: Bible in One Hand, Spade in the Other.
That’s the title. It follows thus:
When the ribbon was cut to dedicate Jerusalem’s newest archaeological attraction last summer, Eilat Mazar stood among the dignitaries like a proud parent.
The 56 year-old Israeli archaeologist didn’t just direct the final excavation that prepared the Ophel City Wall site for visitors. She also linked the silent stones with one of the Bible’s most eminent and holy kings: Solomon.
The Ophel lies just below the Temple Mount and above the City of David, the oldest area of Jerusalem. It is one of the most authentic locations for pilgrims to “walk where Jesus walked.” Now it is possible to stand in the shadow of massive walls that date back to the First Temple.
“The Bible describes how King Solomon built the walls of Jerusalem in 1 Kings 3:1,” Mazar told Christianity Today. “I’m suggesting that what we’ve revealed can be related quite safely to King Solomon.”
Such a bold biblical connection from a modern Israeli archaeologist is rare. It provokes other archaeologists (except for evangelical ones), but it also exposes how the discipline has changed over the past several decades. Biblical archaeology has become a field of scientists who are self-conscious about the biblical pursuits that guided—and sometimes misguided—the discipline during earlier years.
Archaeologists of the early 20th century who linked their discoveries with biblical stories occasionally found that later evidence or more refined scrutiny called their judgments into question. Such premature connection is an indictment that has hung around the neck of biblical archaeology for so long that some archaeologists today are more apt to apologize for biblical connections than to trumpet them.
But not all. In the July/August 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), editor Hershel Shanks chided Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich for asserting that hypothetical biblical connections should be saved until after the archaeological evidence has been properly sorted out. Shanks believes that Mazar, in her willingness to make the biblical hypothesis sooner rather than later, is not wrong. Speaking of another excavation that Mazar suggests is King David’s palace, Shanks wrote that Mazar was simply following the scientific method: “Eilat had a hypothesis, and she wanted to test it by digging.”
How many archaeologists today are willing to admit to testing a biblical hypothesis? In 1998, the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the main professional organization for archaeologists working in the Middle East, changed the name of its magazine from Biblical Archaeologist to Near Eastern Archaeology in order to separate itself from that modus operandi. Mazar, on the other hand, seems more like her grandfather and the archaeologists of earlier generations…
Mazar doesn’t shy away from being called a biblical archaeologist, as some of her colleagues might. She likes the terminology.
“Look, when I’m excavating Jerusalem, and when I’m excavating at the City of David, and when I’m excavating near the Kidron Valley and near the Gihon Spring and at the Ophel—these are all biblical terms,” she said. “So it’s not like I’m here because it’s some anonymous place. This is Jerusalem, which we know best from the Bible.”
Nor is Mazar self-conscious about declaring that she excavates with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other—a description sometimes used to scornfully dismiss archaeologists of earlier years who were trained more in biblical studies than in archaeological technique…
Good for her. Yes, Biblical Archaeology. Use the name. It’s far better than that skeptical revisionist alternative: Biblical minimalism.
“I don’t believe these [modern] archaeologists who ignore the Bible,” she said. “To ignore the written sources, especially the Bible—I don’t believe any serious scholar anywhere would do this. It doesn’t make any sense.”
There is a lot more here and really worth the read.
Wikipedia has more on Dr Eilat Mazar here.
November 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Earlier this year I interviewed Eilat Mazar for a profile which has now been published in the November issue of Christianity Today magazine. (I’ll add the link to the story as soon as it appears online.)
Mazar is a top archaeologist but is also controversial, in part because she is not self conscious about all of the Biblical Archaeology baggage that seems to bother so many modern archaeologists who work in Israel.
So why does a secular Jew, who says she is not religious, have such a strong connection to the Bible? That’s what we explore in this interview and the article.
You can listen to the above interview here.
June 21, 2011 Leave a comment
The Israel Antiquities Authority release:
The Inauguration of the First Temple Period Ophel City Walls Site in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park and the Opening of the Exhibit of the Oldest Written Document from Jerusalem in the Davidson Center in the Archaeological Garden
The site, which was uncovered by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Institute of Archaelogy of the Hebrew University and was prepared for public display and access by the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department, will be opened to visitors.
In a festive ceremony to be held Today – Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the Ophel City Wall site, a complex of buildings uncovered along the route of the fortifications from the First Temple period (tenth-sixth centuries BCE), and the display of the earliest written document ever uncovered in Jerusalem will be inaugurated. The opening of the site, located in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, and the exhibit in the Davidson Center are made possible through the generous donation by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman.
The ceremony will be attended by Mayor Nir Barkat, Israel Antiquities Authority director Shuka Dorfman, Nature and Parks Authority deputy director general Modi Oron, East Jerusalem Development Company director Gideon Shamir and Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Upon completion of the excavation and conservation work at the Ophel City Wall site, visitors will now be able to touch the stones and walls whose construction tells the history of Jerusalem throughout the ages…
The rest here.