Giving away the Temple Mount

The Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is apparently ready to negotiate the status of the Temple Mount and share it with the Arabs! See this israelnationalnews item.

This is incredible! Who does Ehud Olmert think he is to have the right to negotiate the Temple Mount with the Arabs, who want the Jewish people to relinquish any right to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the third holiest site for Muslims, but the first and only real holy site of the Jewish people.

Historically, the Temple Mount was purchased by King David from the Jebusites for 600 shekels of gold (1 Chron. 21.25). It has never changed ownership since that time. The Temple Mount belongs therefore legally to King David and the nation of Israel. The Temple Mount was the place ultimately chosen by God to place His name there (see i.e. Deut. 12.5; Psalm 78.68).

By even thinking of negotiating away the only dwelling place chosen by the God of Israel, the Government of Israel has started the process of disowning their God. How can they expect to be blessed by God if they treat Him like this?

Announcing our new website – www.ritmeyer.com

We have developed our new website ritmeyer.com and, although still in its developing stages, it is now fully functional. If you log on to templemountonline.com, which used to be the name of our website, for example by clicking on Temple Mount Online or the Jerusalem Capital in the blue field to the left, you will be redirected to our new site.
The reason for this is that we wanted to separate information from the items we sell. With this blog, which we started about half a year ago, we feel that more relevant and up-to-date information could be commented on and shared with you.
The website ritmeyer.com serves now only as a “virtual shop”, where our books, posters, CD-ROM’s and Temple Mount Model can be purchased. These educational materials have proved useful to many people over the past 20 years or so and continue to be in demand. I am still teaching full-time until the end of this year, but after that I hope, with the help of Kathleen my wife, to develop many more materials of interest to professors, teachers, Sunday School teachers and the many individuals who are interested in the archaeology of the Holy Land, especially of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, as that is our field of expertise.
So, please visit our new store and order the materials that you are interested in. You can also pay online to make things easy. Happy browsing.

Digging the Temple Mount – how not to do it!

It was reported today that the Islamic Wakf is digging large trenches on the Temple Mount. This is, of course, a very sensitive area, as the bedrock or any remains of the Herodian pavement would be located about 1 meter (3 feet) below the surface. Zachi Zweig, a Jerusalem archaeologist, protested that the Israel Antiquities Authorities allowed this to go ahead without archaeological supervision, which indeed is outrageous. Zachi observed that “Grey earth was removed from the dig, which indicates that it is archaeologically significant. In addition, signs of ancient architecture was exposed beneath the current platform slabs. It should be mentioned that the bedrock level at this location is very close to the current platform.” For pictures of the ditch that was dug, see here.

What ancient architecture might have been exposed? Only using plans and sections can we know what to expect. On the plan below, we see that the ditch cut through the area of the Temple Court, the inner porticoes, the Rinsing Chamber and the Hel (Terrace).

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The section below shows similar information, but in particular how close the ditch is to any remains of the Herodian pavement that would be extant and those of the Rinsing Chamber.

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These drawings demonstrate how important it is to have archaeological supervision wherever one digs, and to know the layout of the Herodian Temple Mount, as how otherwise can what is found be identified?

Temple Awareness

This report from Arutz Sheva News is about an exciting 4-day marathon seminar, focussing on the Temple Mount. If I was in Jerusalem I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!

Temple Awareness: A Summer of Seminars and Tours
by Hillel Fendel

The Holy Temple is “in” with tours, hikes and seminars in and around Jerusalem in the coming days and weeks.

As Jews around the world commemorate the Three Weeks of Mourning for the Holy Temples beginning last Tuesday and ending on Tisha B’Av (July 24), Jews in Israel embark on a marathon of Temple-related studies and activities. A partial list:

Monday, July 16 – Sessions at the Kohen-Levi Conference at HaKotel Hall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. 11 AM – 7 PM, payment of 50 shekels at the door.

Tuesday, July 17 – “A Day of the Temple” Seminar with The Temple Institute: Southern Wall excavations, Davidson Center presentation, Temple stairway and gates, special effects and period actors, Temple vessels exhibition, in-depth lecture, presentation, and special events, 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM, 100 shekels. via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

Wednesday, July 18 – “In the Footsteps of the Kohanim and Leviyim” – in and around Old Jerusalem, Herodian Quarter, 2nd Temple priestly mansions, The Menorah, Cardo, Jewish Quarter, Closest gates of the Temple Mount, Kotel HaKatan (Small Wall), Bus to Mt. of Olives, spectacular Temple Mount view, Shimon HaTzaddik tomb, and View of Nov, the city of Kohanim. 10 AM – 4 PM, 60 shekels via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

Thursday, July 19 – “In the Footsteps of the Kohanim and Leviyim”, bus tour to Shilo, site of the Tabernacle, Eli HaKohen, and Shmuel HaNavi. Then to Modiin area, Beit Choron, where the Maccabees defeated the Greeks. Vista from Baal Chatzor, Rosh Chodesh torches, protected bus. 10 AM – 5 PM, 150 shekels. via the OU Israel Center, tel 02-560-9110.

July 9-12 – Temple Institute in Jerusalem – four days of tours and lectures. Topics include: The commandment to build the Holy Temple today (Rabbi Yisrael Ariel); Daily Sacrifice, Temple Vessels and Priestly Garments; Renewal of Temple Service Today; Tour in the Davidson Center at the Southern Wall; the Red Heifer (Rabbi Chaim Richman); Festivals in the Temple; Pilgrims in Jerusalem; and more. tel: 02-6264545, 200 shekels each day, 700 shekels for entire program.

July 16-23 – “Between Destruction and Construction” Tours in and around Jerusalem, sponsored by the Jewish Community of the City of David – 45 shekels each, seven tours for the price of six:

Tour 1 – From the Assyrian Siege to the Babylonian Destruction: City of David, Chizikiyahu’s Tunnel, and other eastern Jerusalem sites
Tour 2 – Jerusalem During the Second Temple Period: Nechemiah’s Wall, the graves of the Dynasty of David, the Shiloach Pool, and new discoveries
Tour 3 – Following the Pilgrims of the Middle Ages – The gravesites of Huldah, Avshalom, Zechariah, and Rav Ovadiah of Bartinura, and the Rehavam Observation Point
Tour 4 – Famous figures buried on the Mt. of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount
Tour 5 – Sifting through Temple Mount remains with an archaeologist
Tour 6 – The Jewish Quarter in 1948 – The Zion Gate, Street of the Jews, the Hurva Synagogue, Batei Machseh, and more
Tour 7 – The Battles to Liberate Jerusalem in 1967 – Lions Gate, the Western Wall, the Kidron Bridge, and more

Digging the Temple Mount – the location of the Altar

Recently I received this email:
Shalom Dr. Ritmeyer
According to the Talmud a very very deep pit was present at the south western corner of the second temple altar to receive libations. Is there any pits that we know about that are likely canditates for the pit of the libation pit.
best wishes
Shlomo Scheinman

Answer:
None of the cisterns or other cavities that have been recorded by Warren could be identified as the libation pit you mention. The area in which the altar was located, just to the east of the Dome of the Rock (see previous post on The New Sanhedrin and the Temple Mount), has never been excavated. Yet I believe that Shlomo is right, for it is mentioned in Middot 3.3 that “at the [south-west corner of the altar] in the pavement below was a place one cubit square where was a slab of marble on which a ring was fixed; by it they used to go down to the pit and clean it.”
According to the bedrock levels, the altar stood on the rock, which is located about 1 meter below the level of the present platform, which is indicated by the lower blue line on the drawing. I believe therefore that the foundation of the altar may still be there. The following drawing, which is an east-west section through Herod’s Temple and the Altar (in red) and the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain (in blue) shows how these structures were related to the bedrock (i.e. Mount Moriah)

altarlocation1.jpg

The pit therefore must have been carved out of the rock, including possibly the channel that drained the water and the blood from the sacrifices and the libation offerings into the Kidron Valley. There is a real possibility that these remains are preserved and it would take only a little bit of excavation to find it. How exciting that would be!

The Temple Mount in focus

Very busy here with the 40th anniversary of the Six day War. Just time to point out two interesting links that show that the Temple Mount is coming more and more into focus.
This article from Ha’Aretz discusses the different halachic rulings on Jews visiting the Temple Mount and the other BBC site has some topical photographs of the Temple Mount.

Herod’s Grave

I am so pleased for Ehud Netzer, the excavator of Herodium, who has been looking for Herod’s grave all his life and finally found it! You can see some pictures of Prof. Ehud Netzer and the site at http://www.usahm.de/Herodes/page_01.htm. The pictures belong to Ulrich Sahm and they can only be used with his permission.
The interesting decoration, in the shape of a rosette, which Ehud has in his hands was part of the 2.5 m. long sarcophagus (stone coffin) of King Herod the Great. A few other sarcophagi decorated with rosettes have been found in Jerusalem. The sarcophagus of Herod the Great was badly damaged, but this partially preserved rosette is virtually identical to decorations that were found in the Temple Mount excavations. Rosettes like these were used in the entablature of the Temple itself, as can be seen in the Temple illustrations in The Quest, pp.377 and 399. It is obvious that Herod wanted to be remembered as the Temple builder.

Digging the Temple Mount – Inside the Dome of the Rock

Launching this series of postings on what you would find if you could excavate the Temple Mount, we begin by imagining what we would see if the Dome of the Rock were suddenly to disappear.

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The dome of the Rock

If you examine the drawing in my recent post “Digging the Temple Mount –An Introduction”, you see that the uppermost contours of Mount Moriah would become visible. Not only would the Rock or Sakhra (which the Moslems call the Sacred Rock on which, according to them, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac) stand out as the peak of this mountain of destiny, but the surrounding rock levels, now covered over by the floor of the seventh century mosque and its dome-bearing pillars would be exposed.
Digging is, of course, out of the question, but in the past certain circumstances have provided a revealing glimpse into what lies beneath the now sumptuously carpeted floor. One such circumstance was in 1873 when repair work took place (observed by the French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau), which showed that the bedrock was located about 1 m. (3 feet 3 inches) below the present floor-level. This would mean that the rock would stand to a height of 2.75 m. (9 feet) above the surrounding bedrock (“bedrock” is an archaeological term for the rocky mountain itself).
Another opportunity arose in 1959, when Bellarmino Bagatti, an Italian Franciscan scholar, made observations during the extensive repair work that was carried out inside the Dome of the Rock. At that time, the areas near the dome-bearing pillars and other places were excavated down to bedrock. This was done so that concrete could be poured around the pillars to strengthen them.

rock1.png

The bedrock is visible at the bottom of this picture

Bagatti took some illegal photographs which provide valuable evidence and wrote up his findings in a booklet called Recherches sur le site du Temple de Jerusalem (Research on the site of the Temple of Jerusalem). He observed that the bedrock adjacent the Rock inside the Dome of the Rock was rather flat and only started to dip near the outer walls.

sakhra.png

The Rock (Sakhra) stood high above its surroundings

 

When Herod the Great built the new Temple, he first took away the old Temple and cleared the area down to the rock. He then built a podium 6 cubits (3.15 m, 10 feet) high around the Rock, so that only the bare top projected 3 fingers high above the pavement of the Temple. This podium was lined with massive foundation stones, while the inside was filled with large stones.

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Laying the foundation for Herod’s Temple

These massive stones would have been placed on level bedrock and this flat bedrock would have been ideal for this construction. Outside these walls, the bedrock would have sloped down and that is exactly what Bagatti observed.

Further and extensive details on how Herod’s Temple and its predecessor, Solomon’s Temple, were built around the Sacred Rock may be found in my book “The Quest – Revealing the Temple in Jerusalem.”

Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction

A couple of weeks ago, one of our RAD clients asked me “what would you find, if you could excavate the Temple Mount?” I have been often asked this question and usually answered jokingly “World War Three”.

Although this question is of course hypothetical, it is an interesting exercise to imagine what would have been left of the Herodian and earlier constructions after the Roman destruction in 70 AD. By studying the preserved height of the outer walls of the Temple Mount and the state of preservation of the underground structures, it is possible to make an educated guess as to what might be found if ever the possibility of excavating the Temple Mount would present itself.

A valuable source of information is the record of Charles Warren, who in the 1860’s investigated all the cisterns on the Temple Mount and took accurate readings of the top of the bedrock. This enabled him to create a topographical map of the rock contours. Here is his plan:

warren.jpg

After studying this plan, I made a schematic drawing showing the outer walls of the three stages of the Temple Mount and also the layout of the rocky mountain, Mount Moriah, on which the Temple Mount was built, including the position of the water cisterns. Here is the drawing:

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The earliest square Temple Mount was created, as explained in my book The Quest, in the days of King Hezekiah. I have been able to identify part of the western wall of this square, which is visible today as the lowest ‘step’ at the northwest corner of the raised platform, see these two photos:

step1.jpg step2.jpg

The second phase was the Hasmonean extension, of which a part of the eastern wall can still be seen near the southeast corner of the Temple Mount:

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The third phase is the Herodian extension, the walls of which can be seen all around the Temple Mount. In future posts I hope to show in much greater detail what might be found if the Temple Mount could be excavated. Keep checking this blog!