The Half-Shekel Campaign – Summary and Conclusions


First and foremost, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who answered our call and donated to the project and helped disseminate the Campaign. YOUR SUPPORT IS TRULY APPRECIATED. Thank you letters and gifts will be mailed shortly.

Our” Half-Shekel” campaign was launched on September 1st 2015 and lasted for four months. The Temple Mount Sifting Project is all about involving the community, and this campaign was the first time we invited the public to partake in helping fund the project. We chose the crowd funding approach, even though we didn’t know what to expect. This kind of platform, when used by non-profit organizations, is often used to help fund and promote social, medical or political causes, and usually not used for scientific research, let alone for archaeological research although many people find interest and value in it, they still prefer to donate to other causes.

We produced a video with an attempt to tell the story of the sifting project in an interesting and touching way for those who are less-acquainted with the story of the Temple Mount, its history and archaeology, as well as for those who are well acquainted and even for trained archaeologists. We knew that a short video would be essential for it to   become viral, but we weren’t successful   in finding  a way to  consolidate  the story of the project  in addition to explaining our financial needs to the non-aquatint in less than 7 minutes although we managed to have the Hebrew version shorter (5 min).

Eventually the Hebrew video became viral to some extend on Facebook and managed to reach 20 thousand people quite quickly with almost no paid promotion (a total of 27 thousand on both Facebook and YouTube). The English version, which was also available with translation subtitles in many languages, was less successful and eventually reached 50 thousand people (16 thousand people have visited the Half-Shekel Campaign website and more than 270 of them have donated. During the time of this campaign, we eventually managed to raise $35,440.  The donations came mainly from English speaking countries and from Israel, but also from distant parts of the world such as Brazil, Chile, Singapore and other places.

A short while after the inception of the campaign, the political conflict concerning the Temple Mount became a hot topic in the media, and we weren’t sure if it detracted or motivated support of the campaign. We prefer avoiding politics   as much as possible, especially since we are dealing with the most politically sensitive site in Israel, although certain aspects of our research may unavoidably have some political implications. The website has also been translated into Arabic, and attracted a relatively large percentage of visits from Arabic speaking countries, surprisingly, we received only few malicious comments, while hundreds of visitors shared the website and clicked like. Perhaps the scientifically oriented nature of the text helped to some extend to reduce the conflict fed by decisive and ignorant historical claims.

We are still far from reaching the project’s needs, and our funding efforts will proceed. This website will be maintained as a permanent funding website, and we will continue promoting it in various other ways.

You are all invited to continue supporting the project by sending a recurring donation and by sharing the websites of the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

With much gratitude,

Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira

Reconstruction of Crusader Floors in the Dome of the Rock Based on Picturesque Palestine Illustrations and Finds from the Temple Mount Sifting Project

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Yesterday, at Haifa University in a conference commemorating 150 years for the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), Frankie Snyder, a senior member of the Sifting Project who also in charge on the research and publication of the opus sectile floor tiles, gave a presentation on her fascinating discovery of the elaborate Crusader floors that were installed in the Dome of the Rock by the Crusaders in the 12th century. She managed to reconstruct the pattern of the Crusader from tiles found in the sifting of the soil from the Temple Mount.  A detailed article about this will be published in the future in the proceeding book of the conference. Here is the abstract of the presentation:

Reconstruction of Crusader Floors in the Dome of the Rock Based on Picturesque Palestine Illustrations and Finds from the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Long before the convenience of cell-phone cameras, before Nikon, Canon and Kodak, talented artists meticulously sketched pictures of late 19th century Palestine.  The lavishly illustrated Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt edited by Sir Charles W. Wilson features 600 sketches by artists John Douglas Woodward and Harry Fenn reproduced in 40 steel and 560 wood engravings depicting ancient sites and native customs.  The detailed accuracy of their sketches provides information pertinent to archaeological research even today.

The precise location of in-situ remains of a Crusader-era opus sectile floor in the Dome of the Rock was identified by studying a detailed engraving published in Picturesque PalestineOpus sectile tiles recovered at the Temple Mount Sifting Project indicated floors similar to 11th-12th century floors in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been constructed by the Crusaders in Temple Mount buildings, but their original locations were unknown.  With extremely limited access to the Dome of the Rock by archaeologists, combined with the fact that the stone floors are covered by carpets and scatter rugs, the engraving provided extremely valuable information otherwise unavailable to researchers.

This paper will discuss the connections between the earliest image of the opus sectile floors in Wilson’s book, early 20th century reports by Ernest Richmond, recent photographs published in a dissertation written at the University of Amman about the Dome of the Rock, similar Crusader-era floors in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and opus sectile tiles found at the Sifting Project.

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A Potsherd from the Temple Mount with an Incision that Resembles the Temple Menorah


Want to help decipher an archaeological mystery?

A very interesting incised design appears on an ancient potsherd found in the sifting of the soil from the Temple Mount . Is it the Temple Menorah? Some kind of floral design? Something else? How can we date this potsherd? When was the incision done? By whom and for what purpose?

If it is a menorah, what can we learn from this artifact?

All these questions are currently being debated by the archaeologists studying this potsherd.

We welcome your suggestions…

27239 menorah-c

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