OVER 200,000 volunteers from all facets of society, both Israelis and foreigners, have taken part in sifting earth from the Temple Mount. This tedious task could not have been done without the help of a large number of people. This phenomenon of so many participants has no precedent in the history o.
(photo credit: TOMMY CHAMBERLIN)
The Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) inaugurated its new sifting site at Mitzpe Hamasuot in Jerusalem with a one-day exhibition showcasing 300 artifacts, including coins, weapons and architectural ruins, in honor of Jerusalem Day.
Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin sifted through the first bucket at the new site.
“Jerusalem is one of the most excavated places on earth, but [the Temple Mount] was never touched by the spade,” said Dr. Gabriel Barkay, cofounder of TMSP. “Our project is the closest one can get.”
The TMSP began in 1999 after the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement conducted unlicensed renovations on the Temple Mount to create an underground mosque. It dumped more than 9,000 tons of dirt mixed with invaluable archaeological artifacts. Though Israel’s antiquities law requires a salvage excavation before construction at archaeological sites, this illegal bulldozing destroyed innumerable artifacts. The earth and the artifacts within were dumped as garbage in the nearby Kidron Valley, said the TMSP blog.
In a bold move, archaeologists Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Yitzhak (Zachi) Dvira retrieved the dumped earth, and in 2004 began sifting through it. Over the years, TMSP has grown into a project of international significance, with thousands of valuable artifacts discovered with the help of nearly 200,000 volunteers.
Though removed from their archaeological stratum, those artifacts have nevertheless challenged theories and clarified understandings about the Temple Mount, said the TMSP blog.
Originally, the exhibit was meant to be a “modest affair” with long-time friends.
“We scheduled the opening of the new sifting site for the first Sunday in June…” wrote Dvira, cofounder of TMSP, in the blog post. “When somebody opened a calendar and saw that our re-opening comes out on Jerusalem Day, we knew we had to do something bigger.”
That’s when the idea for a Jerusalem Day exhibit was born, he explained.
Typically, large exhibitions like this are prepared for more than three to six months, not three weeks, Dvira continued, explaining that staff at TMSP worked around the clock in what he called “complete pandemonium” to ensure the exhibition would be ready on time.
“We were under tremendous pressure to finish everything, and somehow we managed,” said Barkay. “There are miracles in Jerusalem. Today is the perfect day for this exhibit because Jerusalem is the sole heart and spirit of the Jewish people. It’s very exciting, and I’m very happy,” he said, noting that he fought in the Six Day War 52 years ago.
The exhibit will only be available for one day because TMSP does not have the proper facilities to safeguard the finds in a museum-like way for extended periods, he noted.
The exhibit also includes an interactive element, according to the blog.
Some 22 items have stumped the staff at TMSP, so they have displayed them alongside the exhibition in hopes that the public can provide suggestions to identify the objects.
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