If the Temple Mounting Sifting Project has proven anything its that the Temple Mount grounds preserve what are archaeologically and historically sacred artifacts. Seven years ago the Sifting Project commenced after students of archaeologist Gaby Barkay noticed that truck loads of dirt dumped in the Kidron Valley by the Waqf contained significant archaeological finds from several different periods. People can now go and volunteer for a day in order to participate in wet sifting. Students can discover everything from Second Temple period coins to glazed tiles from the Muslim period.
Recently, more debris appears to have been taken from the Temple Mount and once again dumped in the Kidron valley. While the IAA claims that only garbage was collected by the trucks, Zachi Dvira, one of the directors of the sifting project, has noticed that amidst the so-called “garbage” are hewn stones from a Herodian door and a Mameluk wall engraving
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The adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings especially true on the Temple Mount, where even the smallest piece of ancient trash – such as a seal bearing the name “Bethlehem” or a bell that possibly fell off a priests’ robe – can reveal volumes about religious practices.
Workers from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say that over the past week, six to eight garbage trucks, illegally removed debris, possibly rich in archeological finds, from the site.
But Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the debris had been “modern trash” that needed to be dumped, and that it was done in cooperation with the Antiquities Authority and under police supervision.
The debris dates back to 1999, when the Wakf, the Jordanian body that retains authority over the Temple Mount and other Muslim holy places, used bulldozers to remove some 10,000 tons of dirt from the area known as King Solomon’s Stables to create an emergency exit for the Marwani Mosque, which can accommodate 10,000 people.
Archeologists were stunned at the wanton disregard for preserving the material. Garbage trucks dumped the debris in a big heap in one end of the nearby Kidron Valley.
In 2004, following a petition by archeologists, the High Court of Justice halted the removal of the debris.
Since then, the eastern part of the Temple Mount has become perhaps the world’s most controversial garbage dump, with piles of trash marring the holy site. Construction debris and nylon sheeting are mixed in with medieval Mameluk wall engravings and shards of ancient Herodian floor tiles.
Under the 2004 court order, debris can only be removed from the site after a team of archeologists has examined it – which, say the Temple Mount Sifting Project workers, would make last week’s debris removal illegal.
The police disagree….
Arutz Sheva: Court May Be Asked to Stop ‘Destruction of History
The Times of Israel: Temple Mount authority reportedly carts off antiquities to the dump
HT: J. Lauer