Illegally Digging Up The Temple Mount

Hillel Fendel of Israelnationalnews (Arutz 7) reports that the stone floor inside the Dome of the Rock is being dug up by tractor under the guise of “replacing carpets”.

This cutaway drawing of the Dome of the Rock shows The Rock around which this Islamic structure is built. The Rock, shown in yellow, was the Foundation Stone of the First and Second Temples on which the Holy of Holies was built.
Below The Rock are steps that descend into a cave called al-Maghara.
The floor of the Dome of the Rock is shown in grey.

Using the excuse of “replacing carpets,” the Waqf (Islamic Trust) on the Temple Mount began digging up the stone floor today inside the Mosque of Omar – the site of some of the most sacred areas of the two Holy Temples of Kings Solomon and Herod.

A small tractor was brought into the famous gold-domed structure and dug and removed earth there, with no permit to do so. Such work requires permission from and supervision by the Antiquities Authority, as well as approval from the Ministerial Committee on Archaeological Digs in Holy Sites.

The Antiquities Authority said the works were not coordinated with it, and added, “Further questions must be directed towards the police, who are the sovereign body there.”

The joint Temple Mount Movements umbrella organization, HaMateh HaMeshutaf, reports that any change in the floor, and certainly a penetration into the earth below, is liable to cause irreversible damage to the foundations of the Holy Temple and the surviving remnants of the Holy Temple periods.

This is understandably a cause of concern, especially as there is no information of how deep the excavation is. It is not known therefore what was found or damaged below the floor.

It may be helpful to remember that in 1959, sections of the floor were also dug up for the purpose of strengthening the columns and walls of the Dome of the Rock with reinforced concrete. These secretly taken photographs showed the bedrock  below the pavement:

Scaffolding poles stand on the floor of the Dome of the Rock at upper right and in the foreground, metal bars for reinforced concrete can be seen. The bedrock is estimated to be located a foot and a half (50cm) below the floor. Photo: Studium Biblical Franciscanum.

Here the bedrock is visible close to the central north column of the Dome of the Rock. Photo: Studium Biblical Franciscanum.

This photograph was taken close to the south-southeast corner of the Dome of the Rock. Photo: Studium Biblical Franciscanum.

In all of these photographs, the bedrock appears to be located not more than a foot or two below the floor of the Dome of the Rock. It is important that this excavation is carried out under archaeological supervision for even if nothing other than soil is found, the configuration of the bedrock may cast light on the layout of the Second Temple that stood here almost 2000 years ago.

HT: Joe Lauer

Posted in Excavations, Jerusalem, Temple Mount | 3 Comments

Voice of Israel interview

Kathleen and I were recently interviewed by Eve Harow of the Voice of Israel. She runs a special program called “Rejuvenation with Eve Harow”.

Eve Harow

Eve is a long-time community activist and tour guide from the Judean hills. Her extensive work in Israel advocacy has taken her all over the world. Each week she discusses archaeology, nature and interviews Israelis on current events in the Middle East and the Jewish world.

In the wake of the publication of our guidebook to the Temple Mount, she wanted to know how we got involved with the archaeology of Jerusalem and especially that of the Temple Mount. Our part of the interview, called “Preserving the Holy” was broadcast on April 5th and can be listened to here.

“The Ultimate Guide to an Ultimate Site”

Posted in Jerusalem, Products, Temple Mount | 2 Comments

Radio interview on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

I was recently interviewed by John Enarsson of “Cry for Zion” on Temple Mount issues and also on our new guide book to the Temple Mount, which we reported on in previous posts here and here. These are some of the questions that were asked:

1. Do we know beyond a reasonable doubt that the (1st and) 2nd Temple stood on the Temple Mount? Why? What would be the most important reasons?

2. Do we have good reason to believe that the Holy of Holies was centered on the Foundation Stone? Why? What is the feeling in the scholarly field on this question?

3. A few years ago, you debunked the sensationalistic theories of Ernest L. Martin. Today, the adventurer and author Robert Cornuke is making Martin’s ideas about the Temple popular again to a wider audience. Have you read Cornuke’s book TEMPLE and could you comment on it?

 4. Josephus has long been a favorite source for archeologists. What role do traditional rabbinic sources like the Mishnah play for archeologists like yourself?

You can listen to the 30-minute audio podcast, which includes the interview, here:

Radio interview

Posted in Jerusalem, News, Temple Mount | Leave a comment

Historic Reenactment of Passover in Israel

BreakingIsrael News reports on an historic reenactment of Passover by the Temple Insitute.

Priests are preparing to sacrifice a Passover Lamb. Photo: Temple Institute

The Institute posted on its Facebook page,

“This was the most accurate and authentic reenactment of this service to have taken place in nearly 2,000 years.”

It included all the stages of the ritual, such as checking the animal for blemishes, slaughtering it, collecting its blood and bringing it to the corner of the altar, skinning the animal and separating its inner parts, and roasting it whole in a special Passover oven.

The proceedings can be watched on this video.

Kohanim blowing silver trumpets and carrying lambs to the place of the offering.(Photo: The Temple Institute)


Posted in Jerusalem, News, Temple Mount | 2 Comments

The Altar of the Jewish Holy Temple

Breaking Israel News reports on an altar that has been built by the Temple Institute. You can read the report here.

The altar built by the Temple Institute to be used in service in the rebuilt Third Jewish Temple. (Photo: The Temple Institute)

Priests carrying vessels near the Ramp of the Altar

According to this report, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem has completed the construction of the stone altar required for the sacrificial service in the Holy Temple. One thing that makes this altar unique is that it was designed to be disassembled and quickly reassembled in its correct position on the Temple Mount. According to the Temple Institute,

“The people of Israel are required to build an altar exclusively on the site of the original altar on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount. When circumstances become favorable, this new altar can be quickly re-assembled on the proper location, enabling the Divine service to be resumed without delay.”

It was a little strange to see the red tiles and bricks, but they are supposed to be the outer layer only, while the inner part was built with natural stones.

A few years ago, the Temple Institute asked me for lectures regarding the layout of the Temple and the location of the Altar. They appear to agree with our plan as shown in our new Temple Mount guide book. In our book we show a plan of the altar in relation to the Dome of the Rock and also a photograph with its location:

This plan shows Herod’s Temple, courts and Altar (beige) in relation to the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain (blue). The Rock inside the Dome of the Rock was the Foundation Stone of the First and Second Temples on which the Holy of Holies was built. The Dome of the Chain stands on the former Porch that was built in front of the magnificent Temple built by Herod and the great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices stood to its east.

A view of the Dome of the Rock, looking west, with the Dome of the Chain to its east. The Altar stood in the open space between the Dome of the Chain and the steps that lead up to the Raised Platform from the east.

One wonders when and how the Temple Institute will be able to build this altar in its original location.

Posted in Jerusalem, News, Temple Mount | 6 Comments

Jerusalem – The Temple Mount

Yesterday we received the first copies of our guide book to the Temple Mount. It has 160 pages and 184 illustrations and weighs only 350 grams (12 ounces). It measures 20.8 x 14.3 x 1 cm (8.1 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches), which is a handy size to carry around with you and would fit easily in a large pocket or small bag. It is now possible to order our guide book directly from our website. The cost is US$25.00 or UK£17.00 plus postage.

We hope and feel sure that our book will enhance your visit to the Temple Mount and deepen your understanding of the fascinating history of this important site!



Posted in History, Jerusalem, Products, Temple Mount | 8 Comments

Jerusalem – The Temple Mount, A Carta Guide

We are pleased to announce that it is now possible to order our new guide book to The Temple Mount in Jerusalem from the Carta website. We thank all the people that have written to Carta to have this guide published.


Posted in Jerusalem, Temple Mount | 7 Comments

The Skull of Gordon’s Calvary lost its nose

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces was alerted by one of his friends, Austen Dutton, that the bridge of the skull’s nose had collapsed. You can read Todd’s interesting post here.

Photo: Austen Dutton

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New archaeological discoveries on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Waiting for the publication of our Temple Mount guide book, we are excited to note that it will highlight remains of the ancient Temple platform that have not been identified previously. We have long known of a massive stretch of what appears to be Herodian pavement on the Temple Mount, which, as far as we know, has never been reported before. Here is a foretaste of some of the new discoveries described in our book.

In a previous post, we reported on some massive Herodian paving stones that are now covered by olive trees planted in a thick layer of soil that has been brought into the Temple Mount for that purpose. Another large Herodian paving slab can be seen beneath the Dome of the Spirits.

The Dome of the Spirits is built on a large Herodian paving stone, which measures 12 feet (3.70m) by 11.5 feet (3.50m). According to Warren’s survey maps, it is situated approximately 10 feet (3.00m) above the natural bedrock. It was part of the pavement that was laid north of the buildings that surrounded the Temple. Photo: Nathaniel Ritmeyer

This plan shows in yellow the large Herodian paving stone beneath the small Dome of the Spirits that stands on the Muslim platform of the Temple Mount. This paving stone was part of the paving of the Temple Courts of the Herodian Temple Mount. It has been erroneously claimed to be the location of the Holy of Holies by Prof. A. Kaufman.

This plan compares the size of the paving stone (1) beneath the Dome of the Spirits (Qubbat al-Arwah) with similar sized paving slabs in front of the Double Gate (2) and the Triple Gate (3). The projection at top right of paving stone 1 allowed a smaller stone to be laid next to it, a feature common in Herodian architecture.

We now like to report on a large stretch of ancient paving stones that are located in front of the Gate of the Cotton Merchants (Bab al-Qattanin), at a distance of 45 feet (13.70 m) from the Western Wall.

This picture shows a large stretch of Herodian paving stones that is located in front of the Gate of the Cotton Merchants. The rows, which are about 3 feet (1m) wide, run from east to west at a distance of 45 feet (13.70m) from the Western Wall. Some of these stones are 13 feet (4m) long!

These massive paving stones are different from the normal small paving stones one sees everywhere on the Mount and appear to be Herodian in origin.

What can we learn from the position of this stretch of pavers and what is the importance of its western termination?

This plan shows the stretch of large Herodian paving stones that is located in front of the Gate of the Cotton Merchants in relation to the Western Wall.

According to Josephus (War 5.190-2), the Herodian Temple Mount was surrounded by double porticoes. When reconstructing the double porticoes of the Temple Mount we need to take into consideration the width of the underground Herodian passageways, e.g. Barclay’s and Warren’s Gates and the Double Gate. These are 18 feet (5.50m) wide. This shows that the space in between the columns, which presumably stood in square bays, must have been 18 feet. To get the width of the Western Portico, we need to double this measurement plus the thickness of two columns (e.g. 2 feet or 0.60m approx.) plus the thickness of that part of the Western Wall which is above the platform (5 feet or 1.50m). This gives the measurement of 45 feet, which is exactly the distance between this pavement and the exterior of the Western Wall. We presume therefore that the western edge of this massive paving would have been laid next to the Western Portico.

This section through the double portico of the Western Wall looking north, shows its relationship to the pavement near the Gate of the Cotton Merchants. © Leen Ritmeyer

It is exciting to contemplate that this is one of the few places on the Temple Mount where one can walk on paving stones that have survived the Roman destruction of 70 AD and subsequent depredations of the site.

Posted in Jerusalem, Temple Mount | 13 Comments

The Temple Mount in the Early Muslim Period (638-1099)

Continuing our series on the historical development of Mount Moriah, we have now reached the Early Muslim period. The end of the Byzantine period in Jerusalem was heralded by the Persian invasion of 614 AD  and completed by the Muslim conquest twenty-four years later. Muhammad’s successor, Caliph Omar, accepted Jerusalem’s surrender in 638 AD. Muslims regarded Jerusalem as a holy city and Jews were again granted the right to live there and pray on the Temple Mount. Some sources record that Omar ordered the site of the Temple Mount to be cleared of rubbish, thus exposing the Foundation Stone of the Jewish Temple.

This cutaway drawing of the Dome of the Rock shows The Rock around which this Islamic structure is built. The Rock, shown in yellow, was the Foundation Stone of the First and Second Temples on which the Holy of Holies was built.

Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705 AD) built a magnificent center for Muslim pilgrimage on the Temple Mount, called the Dome of the Rock.

Drawing of Herod’s Temple Façade and the silhouette of the Dome of the Rock (in blue). The height of Herod’s Temple was 172 ft./52.5 m, one and a half times higher than the Dome of the Rock, which is 115 ft./35 m high.

Completed in 691 AD, the Dome of the Rock was neither a mosque nor a place of prayer, but a shrine to the Foundation Stone of the Temple. Modelled after Byzantine centrally designed commemorative churches, the Muslims transferred to the Temple Mount the story of the Night Journey of Muhammad from Mecca to the “farthest shrine” (al-Aqsa). From here they believed he ascended into Heaven. Now one of the world’s most iconic buildings, known to virtually everyone on the planet, the golden dome that shimmers against the often cobalt blue sky and the blue tiled walls of the octagonal building are both contrasting and harmonious. Few visitors to the site today, however, realise how difficult it is to express its beauty in either geometrical designs or mathematical formulae, especially as we no longer have its original blueprint.

Writing this blog reminded me of the time I worked on the architectural reconstruction of a funeral monument called Gonbad-e-alawiyyan in Persia (Iran) for an Israeli colleague. From this I developed an analysis which is also valid for the plan and section of the Dome of the Rock, the crowning glory of early Islamic architecture.  Too complex to describe fully here, it is based on three concentric circles which closely bind together all the different constructional elements into one magnificently proportioned building.

This centrally designed building ranks among the most beautiful buildings in the world. Our new analysis requires the taking of one measurement only that is then divided into three equal sections (OA=AB=BC). From the centre (O), three concentric circles are drawn through A, B and C. The subsequent inner and outer octagons and star octagons of each circle create a pattern that can be used with many variations for the accurate location of walls, piers, columns and openings.

I later applied it successfully to other classical centrally designed buildings, such as the Round Temple at Baalbek, San Vitale at Ravenna, the Mausoleum of Diocletian at Spalato, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and many others. It is intriguing to think that here we may have a certain school of ancient architecture, which was in use for a long period, but whose traditions were eventually lost.

The Temple Mount in the Early Muslim Period. The Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the Jewish Temple and the al-Aqsa mosque on the location of  the Royal Stoa above the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount.

On completion of the Dome of the Rock, Caliph al-Walid (705-715 AD) built a mosque called al-Aqsa above the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, on the former site of the Herodian Royal Stoa. The Temple Mount was and still is known to the Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary). The Virtual Walking Tour of al-Haram al-Sharif  produced by Saudi Aramco World led by Oleg Grabar, the late Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, allows one to explore its jewels of Islamic architecture in a very informative way.

The reconstruction drawing above is the 10th and last in this series that was made specially for our new Temple Mount guide book that is awaiting publication. For the previous drawings see: Mount MoriahJebusitesSolomonHezekiahNehemiah, the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods , the Herodian period, the Roman period and the Byzantine period.

Posted in History, Jerusalem, Temple Mount | 4 Comments