The Temple Mount Sifting Project will resume operations on Jerusalem Day, June 2.
According to a release by the project, a third of the removed Temple Mount soil remains unsifted and is in danger of being lost by erosion.
“Due to this urgent situation, the project’s directors made the decision to resume the sifting,” it said in a statement.
The sifting project began in 2004, five years after the Israeli Northern Branch of the Islamic movement and the Islamic Waqf conducted illegal and destructive excavation work at the south-east corner of the Temple Mount, removing some 9,000 tons of antiquities-rich earth from the area and dumping it in the nearby Kidron Valley.
The project was spearheaded by Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira, who transferred the soil to the Tzurim Valley National Park and established a sifting facility in order to recover the ancient artifacts hidden in the soil and conduct in-depth research aimed at shedding new light on the history of the Temple Mount.
So far, the project has unearthed more than half-a-million artifacts.
According to the release, from 2005 to 2017, the project operated in cooperation with the City of David Foundation. Today, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Archaeology, and funded by private donors and philanthropic foundations via the Israel Archaeology Foundation and its crowdfunding website.
In 2017, the sifting part of the project took a break in order to focus on research. The plan, according to Dvira, was to have a break of several years. However, “We noticed that the remaining unsifted soil is in danger of erosion by the elements and mixing with other illegal dumps of garbage at its current location.”
Dvira said that The Muslim Waqf continues to perform unauthorized movement of earth. For example, in June, Palestinians did some renovations in the eastern area of the Temple Mount near the contested Golden Gate. The renovations were done manually and did not draw the attention of the Israeli police. Although, since then, police are aware and guarding the area, damage had been already done.
“We realized that the soil there is also in immediate danger and should be sifted after determining the controlled archaeological method by which it will be removed from the Temple Mount,” Dvira explained.
The sifting will now take place at a new compound at Mitzpeh Hamasuot.
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