Did digging on the Temple Mount Erase Traces of the Jewish Altar?

Gil Ronen of Israel National News (Arutz 7) published this report about renovation work being carried out at the Dome of the Chain:

Muslim religious authorities are concluding a clandestine eight-month dig on the Temple Mount that is intended to erase traces of the Jewish Temple’s Altar, Temple activists charge.

The digs have been taking place under the Dome of the Chain, believed to have been built over 1300 years ago. For eight months, the dome – which has a diameter of 14 meters – has been surrounded by a metal fence and black cloth, which hide whatever activity has been going on there from outside inspection. The Muslim Waqf religious authority has claimed the activity is simply a refurbishing of the structure, but refuses adamantly to let Jews or tourists near.
Jewish activists made various attempts to enter the Dome, but met with no success. In the end, the Our Temple Mount news outlet found an Arab who was willing to take photos inside the compound in return for a handsome fee (see below). The man said that it appears the Waqf has already completed its digs and is now covering the dig with dirt.
Our Temple Mount notes that according to Jewish tradition, the place where the Dome of the Chain is located is the spot upon which the sacrificial Altar stood in Temple times. Temple activists said that the Muslim digs are intended to erase the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Jewish activists paid an Arab to take these photos of illegal digging on the supposed site of the Jewish Temple Altar:

A bulldozer ripping up pavement on the Temple Mount
The screen around the Dome of the Chain.
View of work carried out inside of the Dome of the Chain.
Another view of work carried out inside of the Dome of the Chain.

Although it is deplorable that this much needed renovation work was done without archaeological supervision, no digging to any depth appears to have been carried out, as the paving of the Dome of the Chain appears to be still intact. If the doubtful aim was “to Erase Traces of Jewish Altar”, then the work wouldn’t have succeeded in any case, as the altar stood to the southeast of the Dome of the Chain. If  The Rock inside the Dome of the Rock is the location of the Holy of Holies, then according to my plan of the Herodian Temple Mount, the Dome of the Chain stands where once the Porch of the Temple was located.

This plan shows the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain (blue) superimposed on the plan of the Herodian Temple and its Porch (red). As can be seen from the plan, the Altar stood to the southeast of the Dome of the Chain. © Leen Ritmeyer

In a previous post, I published this photograph of the Dome of the Chain with the location of the Altar outlined in white:

The location of the Altar in relation to the Dome of the Chain and the Dome of the Rock, looking west. © Leen Ritmeyer

HT: Joe Lauer

11 thoughts on “Did digging on the Temple Mount Erase Traces of the Jewish Altar?”

  1. Like many readers of your blog, I support your view for the position of the altar … glad you supplied not only a constructive critique of the Arutz 7 report, but your own illustrations for clarity. I guess, given recent 21st century practices of the Waqf, and their “repairs” on the Temple Mount, it seems that they may harbor duel motives in these ongoing restorations. It is sad. We can only hope that the Israeli authorities will eventually enforce their sovereignty over the site and allow for (at minimum) a non-invasive GPR survey (or similar technology) the Harem plaza. That would be amazing to see! Not holding my breath. Thanks again Leen, for your work on this topic!

  2. I, too, thought that that report was a bit jumping-the-gun and a question mark should have been attached to the claim. But, based on previous incidents, better to be alert that sorry.

  3. Didn’t Hadrian plow everything up and establish a Temple to Jupiter? How much of the Second Temple artificats underground really remain in any kind of recognizable form?

  4. Ben Moshe,

    The Romans didn’t plough the Temple Mount. They usually used a plough to set out the boundaries of a new colony.

    Many Temple Mount remains have been documented, such as all the outer walls and the gateways and their underground passages. Even the domed ceiling of the Double Gate is still intact.

  5. Leen,
    Thanks for helping bring a little clarity tot he story. I spoke with Gabi Barkai yesterday and he agreed that no digging had taken place and noted that the bedrock is so high in that area that there would be little if any digging that could be done.

    Also: Please note that the 1st photo with the backhoe/bulldozer is from the 2007 trench that was dug across the northern side of the raised platform. It is not a current photo.

  6. “see my section through the Temple, the Altar, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain: http://store.ritmeyer.com/node/178

    Won’t be necessary. I have my copy of The Quest sitting right here on my desk and it’s well worn from years of study. Let’s just say I’m a Ritmeyer Hassid 😉
    I’d be honored to meet you next time you’re in Israel.

  7. “The Romans didn’t plough the Temple Mount. They usually used a plough to set out the boundaries of a new colony.”

    And here all my years since Hebrew school Ive had an image of an angry Hadrian, yoking up Oxen and mushing them all around the Temple area to dig up the earth as a way of basically saying “I will show you whose in charge” like a tantrum almost. LOL.

    So digging up conquered ground was like driving the first spike into a newly laid railroad line. Well again I have been educated. Thank You.

  8. Even if not a shred of evidence can be found regarding the Temple and Altar, in the fullness of time God will reveal it all, to the State of Israel.

  9. It is a pity, I had no idea that Jerusalem was not open to all israelis !!

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