Marlowe's Shade

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Desecration of the Temple Mount

From Baptist Press News

I've had a number of posts about the Temple Mount recently. I was aware of some of the destruction being cause by the Waqf, but this article drives home the bad stewardship of the Islamic authorities over the Temple Mount.

Barkay, professor of archaeology at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, visited to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for a Jan. 27 lecture sponsored by the seminary's Center for Archaeological Research.

"In November 1999, the Islamic authorities carried out a huge excavation of [the part of the Temple Mount known as Solomon's Stable]," Barkay said. "They built a modern entrance to the building instead of the existing entrance, and they dug a huge pit with the help of bulldozers and 300 [dump trucks] that removed the dirt from the earthen fills of this spot."

Barkay showed pictures of tractors demolishing structures dating to the Twelfth Century Crusades. The demolition went on without any regulation or archaeological supervision, he said. Builders at the Temple Mount took many of the ancient stones from earlier Jewish buildings and cut them down to make modern stones.

"Who knows how many inscriptions we lost in this way?" Barkay said. "Who knows how many decorated stones were defaced in this manner? The earth was saturated with ancient materials, and it was dumped in the Kidron Valley to the east of the Temple Mount."

Many of the Jewish and Christian artifacts dating to the Crusades and to the first and second temples were covered up, destroyed or removed. In view of these developments, Barkay began to act.

"We formed a committee for monitoring what goes on at the Temple Mount," he said. "We take weekly aerial photos of it. Today there is much less activity. We're doing our best to protect every grain of dirt."

Just two months ago, Barkay put his archaeological know-how into action; he got a license to excavate the dumping grounds in the Kidron Valley.

"We began a project of collecting the dirt from the dumping areas. We moved the piles of dirt to a well-protected area," he recounted. "We covered them with plastic sheets. Each pile was marked with the exact place of origin and exact depth we could estimate from which it came."

His team used sifting machines to separate stones from more delicate items. Then they began searching through the material by hand.

"This effort already yielded some scores of coins," he said. "We have coins from the 12th century, the 19th century, up to the first century B.C. We have some second-century B.C. Antonian coins. We have some Herodian coins."

Among the other things, the team found a Christian charm bearing the image of John the Baptist with an infant Jesus and the Jordan River in the background. They found an alabaster dish from the Persian Period and an ivory comb from the Second Temple period. Though much had already been lost, the substance of what they are finding is encouraging amid the delicate and unfortunate situation.

There has been a lot of discussion lately of Christian interest in the Temple Mount, particularly surrounding End Time prophecy, but the destruction by the Waqf is a more immediate concern.

"The Temple Mount is the most important part of Jerusalem," Barkay said. "No doubt the Temple Mount is the most delicate, the most disputed, the most fragile point of the current conflict between Palestinians and Israelis."

After a pause, he continued: "Actually, the Temple Mount represents the whole conflict in a nutshell."

We can be grateful at least that Arafat wasn't buried there.

Update - In a somewhat related story from Arutz Sheva

The re-established "Sanhedrin" convened to hold its monthly meeting this week, with the question of the Holy Temple's precise location the main topic on the agenda.

The recently re-established Sanhedrin - ideally, Judaism's top legal assembly - of 71 rabbis and scholars also moved to solidify logistical aspects of the body.

The Sanhedrin heard expert testimony on the various opinions as to the exact part of the Temple Mount upon which the Holy Temple stood. The fact that there has never been an archaeological expedition or dig on the Temple Mount, coupled with continuous Muslim efforts to destroy historical evidence of the Holy Temple at the site, have made determining the exact location difficult.

Identifying the spot on which the Temple stood is a matter of controversy among scholars, and has serious ramifications for those wishing to visit the Temple Mount. It is also critical for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice, and ultimately for the building of the third and final Holy Temple. While numerous opinions have been expressed throughout the years, and while several of them were expressed at the Sanhedrin gathering this week, the two main opinions state that the Temple stood either on the spot currently occupied by the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, or just to the north of that spot. An opinion that the Temple stood south of that spot, approximately behind the present-day Western Wall, was also presented - though most scholars basically discount it.

One important point that this article brings up is that the longer the Waqf is on the Temple Mount, the more opportunities they have to destroy archaeological evidence of the Temples.
papijoe 8:08 AM