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A Baby, a Cradle, and a Torah that survived the Holocaust

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People are the most valuable finds.

Australian Med Corps

Australian Army Medical Corps Badge WWI

Although the Temple Mount Sifting Project focuses on ancient finds, many of the finds we retrieve are also from the modern era and we are studying them as well. This includes artifacts from World Wars I and II. But we always say that the most important finds are the people who volunteer to sift with us, and the staff with their special personalities and personal stories. On the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom HaShoah, we would like to share with you the personal story of the project director Dr. Gabriel Barkay who was born in the Budapest ghetto a year before the end of the war, and a unique Torah scroll which was kept in his cradle.

I was born in 1944 on the same day my mother entered the ghetto, and she had two precious things: the newborn baby and the Torah scroll that was kept with the family. She dragged a large cart with all the things she could carry, and she gave birth to me. There had been horses used to tow the wagons, but because of the starvation in the community, they were all eaten in the weeks before, so there was neither food nor horses. My mother’s grandfather, Reb David Weiss, lived in a family home where several members of his family lived. He was a father of five children, four sons and a daughter who was my grandmother.

He had a private synagogue, and the Torah scroll was there in the synagogue. This Torah scroll was probably written in the 19th century in Romania. From Budapest, the Nazis hardly took Jews to the extermination camps. They planned to keep them hostage for the end of the war, though at the end of the war there were death marches from Budapest to Austria. Most of the people were killed on the way, and others went to concentration camps in Austria. Some died and some remained alive. But my family were probably forgotten in the back.

In November 1944, the Nazis took out all the inhabitants of the ghetto, including me, and took us to the train station, apparently to go to Poland. I do not know exactly what happened. Apparently, the train tracks were bombed and we were taken back to the ghetto and I was left behind. That is how I was saved, and also the Torah scroll that was hidden in my cradle.

After the war we went to Israel, I and the Torah scroll. In 2006 I was invited to a series of lectures in Canada. I met my mother’s cousin, who was then 91, but has since passed away. I told him that his grandfather’s Torah scroll was in my possession. He said, “Wait a minute,” and went into the other room and brought the curtain of the ארון קודש (holy ark) where the Torah scroll had been kept and gave it to me. This curtain was made around 1900. Hannah, wife of Reb David Weiss, embroidered it for his birthday. It is silver threads on velvet. The Torah was once used in my Bar Mitzvah in 1957. Afterward, we discovered that the Torah had mistakes and was invalid, so I made sure that it was fixed. The Torah underwent many hardships, was revised a few years ago, and then was re-inserted into my synagogue in East Talpiot in Jerusalem.  -Dr. Gabriel Barkay

gaby1Dr. Gabriel Barkay (73), the Jerusalem Prize laureate of archaeology, is considered by many to be the greatest expert on the archaeology of Jerusalem. He has excavated dozens of sites, and is known for his discovery of important silver scrolls from the First Temple period. As the blessing on the scrolls appear in the Torah, this is the oldest biblical text ever discovered. Barkay has taught for many years at Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, and other institutions. He is a member of the Israel Antiquities Authority Advisory Council, and is an editor or consultant for several periodicals.

Photo credit for the photographs from the ceremony bringing the Torah to the synagogue goes to Barry A. Kaplan.

Early Islamic Destruction Layer?

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Preserving the Heritage of Everyone

Amidst all the stress of trying to find the funding to keep our research lab open, we cannot forget our purpose: to share our research with you. We truly believe that our research is important to the heritage of the all who connect to the Temple Mount: billions of people across the world in all three of the world’s major monotheistic religions. We are finding artifacts that are part of the heritage of Jews, Pagans, Christians, Muslims, and all those in between. We’ve written recently about the Christian connection to the Temple and the Jewish connection to the Temple, so today we are going to share some Islamic history of the Temple Mount.

Lailat al Miraj

buraq

Buraq as seen on a reproduction of a 17th century Indian Mughal miniature

Last night marked the beginning of the holiday of Lailat al Miraj, which falls on the 27th day of Rajab and like the Jewish calendar, begins at nightfall the day before. This is the Muslim holiday that commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s nighttime journey from Mecca to the “Farthest Mosque” where he then ascended to heaven, met G-d and earlier prophets, and was told of the duty of Muslims to recite Salat (ritual prayer) five times a day. Muslims believe that the “Farthest Mosque” refers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount here in Jerusalem. They believe that two angels provided the Prophet Muhammad with the mythical winged steed called Buraq, and they named the Buraq Wall (also known as the Western Wall or Kotel) as the place where Muhammad tied this winged steed. In some traditions, Buraq has the head of a women and the tail of a peacock. The full story of Lailat al Miraj are described in chapter 17 of the Quran and also in hadith, supplemental writings about the life of Muhammad.

dome_of_the_rock13235570190061Finds

The Temple Mount’s history is not only rich during the First and Second periods, though those have been in the news a lot recently. We have recovered a huge amount of material from the Early Islamic period and the Ottoman empire including the golden glass mosaics from the original Dome of the Rock and many ottoman smoking pipes. In September we also recovered this beautiful mother of pearl decoration with the Dome of the Rock on it. You may also have heard about the many Ottoman seals that have been recovered by our project including one with the name of the Deputy Mufti of Jerusalem, a possible ancestor of the current leader of the Waqf.

Last summer, we recovered an intact oil lamp from the Early Islamic period. While that may seem like an obvious find in most excavations, because the material that we are sifting was excavated by bulldozer, everything we find is broken. To find something intact is quite special for our project. Even more interesting than that, the cluster of earth in which the oil lamp was found included many other artifacts (including many large pieces) from the earliest stages of Islamic occupation on the Temple Mount itself. The finds seem to come from a violent destruction of the site, possibly the earthquake of 658 CE. Usually, large or unbroken finds like this are only found in sealed layers of excavations. These finds from the Temple Mount indicate the possibility that at some time in the last millennium, someone dug a hole somewhere on the Temple Mount and hit an Early Islamic layer with lots of pottery. The debris from this dig was dumped in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount and was subsequently removed by the Waqf in 1999, reaching our hands.

lamp

Early Islamic Period (Abbasid) oil lamp Credit: FARLI.org

Unfortunately I can’t show you ours until more research has been done. Here is a similar Early Islamic Period (Abbasid) oil lamp which will give you some idea of what we are talking about. Credit: FARLI.org.

Finding the remains of the destruction caused by the earthquake of 658 CE is one of the more interesting things we have discovered in our research, and is greatly dependent on the statistical analysis of our artifacts. Click here for more information about our methodology and our use of statistics to understand archaeological data.

Updates, News, and Tours

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Hello blogworld!

We have a number of important updates to share with you.

Current Campaign Stats:

pie chart

189,200 shekel 

pledged by 550 backers.

That’s 76% of our goal!

 

BUT…

Our momentum has slowed because of two statements issued by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority assuring everyone that they are taking care of our project. We appreciate all the help that we can get, but unfortunately, these two statements are based on vague promises not actions, and have detrimentally affected our campaign. Everyone we have spoken to or reached out to has said, “but isn’t the government now taking care of it?”

In short, the answer is no. None of these offices have given us any concrete pledge or solution.

We need your help to share the truth of the situation and help us get the momentum of our campaign running again. So here are the facts:

Facts:

  1. This campaign is all or nothing. According to the rules of this campaign, if we do not reach our initial target amount (250,000 NIS), your credit card will not be charged and we will not receive a single shekel that has been donated so far. That is over $50,000 that we will not see.
  2. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that our problems had been resolved, but in practice, even a meeting had not yet been scheduled.
  3. The Antiquities Authority also issued a statement that they were searching for a solution to our problem, but we have not even been contacted to discuss this.
  4. Even if the government eventually steps in, they will provide support – not funding for the whole project. This will also take time we do not have before we have to close our doors.
  5. At this stage, we are raising the funds necessary to complete our research on the artifacts already discovered by our project.
  6. Only once we have funded our research will we be able to move on to our second goal which is to publish this research and then resume the sifting of the rest of the material from the Temple Mount.
  7. The sifting activity currently taking place at Emek Tzurim through Ir David is no longer related to our project. They are not sifting material from the Temple Mount, but rather material from various IAA excavations.

Unfortunately, and as we all know, promises are not actions. Please help us spread the word that these official statements from the different government offices are not telling the full truth of the situation.

How can we reach our goal? With YOUR help.

Please massively distribute the link to our project’s campaign to your circles of influence with an explanation of its importance and a warm recommendation to support our crowdfunding campaign.

Send it to your email list, publish it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and more.

Click HERE for the link 

You are the heart and motivation of the sifting and research of the heritage of the Temple Mount and for this you have our deepest thanks.

Please help us complete this process.

In Other News:

  • O17800111_10155224299614324_7396040636737479064_nur arrowhead replicas are ready to go (and available as gifts on our campaign website)!

  • NEW! Guided Tours!

June 8th – Tour the Temple Mount itself with our Director Zachi Dvira who has been studying this holy and complex site for the last 18 years. (Hebrew)

June 15th – Tour Ir David with one of its excavators. Learn the inside scoop about the history of this fantastic city. (Hebrew)

Join a tour by clicking on the appropriate gift in our crowdfunding campaign. Not only will you learn something, have a great day out on the (ancient) town, but you will do a huge mitzvah in helping our project too!

Can’t make it?

Form a group of 10+ and we can schedule a private tour in English or Hebrew.

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