Find of the Month!

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No grit no pearl

This month’s find of the month is actually two finds! With a bit of hard work, determination, and a little luck, two brothers found pearl artifacts on the same day while sifting with us at Emek Tzurim. What a lucky family.

IMG-20160811-WA0010Eitan and Amichai Strik from Israel came to the sifting project with their family over the school summer holiday and really enjoyed their time with us. People often ask us how to pick a “good” bucket. I personally don’t have an answer to this question, but clearly we should all be asking the Strick family for bucket picking tips.

Amichai found a mother of pearl bead while his younger brother Eitan found a beautiful mother of pearl inlay. We have not yet dated either item as dating pearl is very hard to do when the item is out of context. Jewelry trends cycle, so trying to date these items by comparing them to similar items found in other excavations is also complicated.


Mother of pearl inlay and bead found by the Strick brothers.

Mother of pearl is the common name for iridescent nacre, which is a combination of minerals that is secreted by oysters and other mollusks and deposited inside their shells, coating and protecting them. Nacre is the same material that is deposited around a tiny particle lodged in a mollusk that builds and eventually becomes a pearl.

Most of the mother of pearl found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project was imported from the Nile River. We have a lot of pieces that are considered industrial waste from inlay projects, but also a lot of natural pieces left over from the food consumption of Byzantine monks who had a love of clams. Finding mother of pearl beads or actual pearl inlay is rare in our sifting. We have some inlay that are from the Dome of the Rock and were removed with the gilded glass mosaic tesserae that were installed there during the shrine’s construction in the late 7th century CE. Here are some of the other pieces we have found.

MoP Inlays2

Pearl inlay artifacts found by the Sifting Project

Picturesque Palestine pg. 133  m-o-p beads 1Mother of pearl has been used for centuries. In Israel, mother of pearl inlays became common after the Late Second Temple period. The Book of Esther (1:6) describes the floors of Achashverosh as made of precious stones, marble, and mother of pearl. The book, Picturesque Palestine (1881), in describing and illustrating the tours of Harry Fenn and J.D. Woodward, show the mother of pearl workers of Bethlehem (right). This was part of the bustling trade with pilgrims in Bethlehem, especially around the holidays of Christmas and Easter. The most popular items for sale were rosaries, some of which included mother of pearl beads, as well as pearly scoops made from the shells of the giant oysters of the Red Sea and brought to Bethlehem from Suez, which were loved by English visitors. Other items for sale to pilgrims in Bethlehem included relics, palm-boughs, scallop shells, crosses, and little images.

Today, wood inlay with mother of pearl is popular on guitars and other stringed instruments. In jewelry, pearls and mother of pearl are in two different categories. Pearls are more rare, and are rounded gems that can only grow to a certain size. Alternatively, mother of pearl is much more common (though not found coating all mollusks). Because the nacre coats the entire inside of a shell, it also provides much more material to work with.

Today, due to awareness of unsustainable pearl-farming techniques, pearls and mother of pearl are not as widely used and much of the jewelry and inlay on the market is antique or vintage. Some companies are working on initiating more ecologically sustainable ways of collecting their material, so perhaps this beautiful substance will gain again in popularity in the near future.

For more information on pearls today, click here.

Finally, a little pearl wisdom:



A Letter from Dr. Ron Beals Sharing is Experience in the Sifting Project


Temple Mount Sifting Project

By Dr. Ron Beals, Volunteer

January 6, 2009 Jerusalem Israel

  While many people consider Monday a “blue day” this past one (yesterday) was utterly tremendous. It was a very cool (30° F) morning as I set out for the Temple Mount Sifting Project.  This project is located in Emek Tzurim.  This area is better known to many by the New Testament Name of the Valley of Jehosephat.  It is located between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. 

  Since we were expecting guests at the site I decided to walk to the local supermarket to get some bourekas to have with our “morning tea.” The aroma in the market bakery was totally overwhelming but I restrained myself and finally boarded bus 19 to the Hebrew University where I would begin the mile long walk down the hill to the work site. 

  O arrival, I deposited my treasures in the office and saw Dr. Gabby Barkay, Dr. Kay Prag (an English archeologist with special experience in Israeli and Jerusalem exploration) and Dr. Scott Stripling a volunteer at the site who teaches archeology at a Sugarland, TX school. Dr. Barkay is the Professor of Archeology at both the Bar Ilan and Hebrew Universities.  He is well known in international circles for his archeological work as well as for being the director of this reclamation project. 

  Dr. Prag was here to investigate the work that is being done. They were soon joined by Zachi Zweig, one of the primary investigators and the major instigator of this project.  He has done extensive investigation on Temple Mount archeology. 

  Ater their tour through the project we all took a break for tea and were treated to a two hour discussion and commentary on the archeological endeavors in Israel, in Jerusalem and specifically what had been done near the Temple Mount. The names of notables like Robinson, Robert Hamilton, Kathleen Kenyon and others were flying around like “old friends.” 

  As the discussion continued Dr. Prag was extolling the great work that Dr. Barkay and Zachi Zweig were doing.  Then Dr. Barkay made a comment that was absolutely astonishing. 

It seems that all the extensive work that has been done has been in the vicinity of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.  But there have never been any real archeological digs on the Temple Mount itself or dealing with artifacts from the Temple Mount. 

  There are many academic flaws with this project since the materials have been removed by the Islamic Wakf and are not located at the original site.  Yet, the work of this project is the first evaluation of materials and artifacts directly from the Temple Mount and therefore of extraordinary importance. 

  For centuries after the destruction of the Temple, either foreign rulers or the Islamic Wakf have forbidden any work on the mount itself. In addition they have never allowed access to the site or to anything underground. 

  Now, for the very first time, this project is sifting, finding and evaluating artifacts that were excavated from the Temple Mount by the Moslem Wakf and deposited in a Jerusalem valley.  There were no archeologists to oversee these activities nor was there any assessment of the damage that this destruction was doing to the Temple Mount and it’s history.

  To me this was a stunning revelation. I have read Biblical Archeology Review and other information about the Temple and the Temple Mount. But I had never realized or thought about the fact that at no time had anyone been allowed the opportunity to actually explore the site itself or look at the artifacts that were there. It seems ironic that the most significant place for Judaism and Christianity has never had the opportunity to be scientifically and archeologically scrutinized by experts. 

  What is perhaps even more ironic is that this project has and is being funded almost exclusively by private donations.  However because of the current state of economics and the world political situation, the funding has almost “dried up.” 

  During the past few months the funding for this has been dramatically reduced and they have had to terminate a large number of the staff.  They have continued this project mainly with volunteers and a skeleton staff. Last year at this time there were usually about six or more staff members working diligently daily. Now there are usually two to three members. 

  One of the truly wonderful aspects of this project has been the educational component. There is a small area designated for groups to come to visit. Frequently both school and tour groups come to where they can experience the artifacts that have been removed from the very “House of God” from Solomon’s and Herod’s times.  

  School groups are actually being taught the validity of the Biblical account and that this land and particularly this Temple Mount was existent and is their heritage. They also have the opportunity to experience the project by helping sift through buckets of dirt and rocks and find real artifacts. The response is dramatic. 

 It is my hope that some may find this work important enough to help support these efforts. For those who would like to see more about what they have done go to: https://templemount.wordpress.com/ .


Ronald D. Beals, MD


IN ISRAEL: 12A Mendele, Jerusalem, 050-881-4136


IN US: East Texas Biblical Prophecy Forum

9030 Old Hickory Rd.Tyler, TX 75703, 903-561-6274

First Knesset Member to Sift the Earth of the Temple Mount

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Last Wednesday, we had a very surprising visit from Labor party secretary, MK Eitan Kabel, who came with his family  to see our site and participate in the sifting project. MK Kabel is the first MK to partake in the sifting. He said that he saw an Ir-David publication about the sifting site, and decided to take a day off and visit with his family.

Hopefully MK Kabel’s example will encourage more public officials to be aware and take responsibility on the ongoing archaeological destruction of the Temple Mount.


MK Eitan Kabel and his family participating in the Sifting Project