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Staff Spotlight for February: Zachi Dvira

img_3307How does a computer programmer stumble into directing a hot-topic salvage archaeology project? This is the story of our Director, Zachi Dvira.

After a short hiatus during our crowdfunding campaign, our Staff Spotlight is back on and this month, it falls on Zachi. Many people have read interviews and articles about Dr. Gaby Barkay, but what do you know about the student turned director of our project?

Zachi grew up in Herzliya and only really got started in archaeology at age 25. From age 9, he was programming computers. After the army, he went into computer graphics and animation and even started his own business. One Sukkot, he left his office for eight days, and the heat from the sun coming through the windows destroyed all of his hard drives. All of his files and big projects were lost.

Zachi felt like he needed a change. He had just spent time traveling in the Caribbean and South America and became more interested in archaeology. He was intrigued by St. Augustine in Columbia and its unique culture. He was a city boy, but when he got back to Israel, he started traveling within Israel and visiting the archaeological and historical sites here. He was amazed at the number of things that he didn’t know and that he hadn’t done in Israel. Zachi’s late grandmother also fanned the spark of interest in archaeology and would talk to Zachi about excavations and discoveries.

Zachi had been interested in the Bible since he was a teenager and he had been researching the Torah text and its relation to modern Judaism. After the loss of his files, Zachi went back to programming, but he also wanted to learn archaeology on the side because of his sincere interest in the subject. He also wanted to gain the tools he needed to research more about the Bible and the source of Judaism. Zachi enrolled at Bar Ilan University, and as he learned more and more, he felt like he really began to better understand the text of the Bible and the context in which it was written.

So how did the Sifting Project start?

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Illicit bulldozing in 1999

Zachi was interested in the Temple Mount and he was doing a seminar with Dr. Gaby Barkay about Jerusalem. He had to write a paper about Jerusalem in the 10th Century BCE. At that time, there was a claim that the Temple Mount was not a part of Jerusalem in the 10th century and that it was only added later on.

Even in 1998, there had been reports of trucks leaving the Temple Mount with earth, and when the large Awaqf excavation took place in 1999, someone who had followed the trucks told Zachi where to find the dirt that they had dumped. Zachi had the idea that he could maybe find something from the 10th century BCE and give evidence that the Temple Mount was a part of Jerusalem at that time. He had no idea that it would become a whole project.

With other friends and archaeology students, Zachi surveyed some of the earth removed from the Temple Mount, but it was professors like Dr. Barkay that were able to date and identified the artifacts and who realized that they were dealing with something immensely important.

Zachi and Gaby decided to establish an official project for sifting this debris and the Temple Mount Sifting Project was established in 2004. Zachi was in the middle of his MA studies. I asked him what his dreams are for the project, and he said that because this project has exceeded all hopes and expectations, it is difficult to talk about dreams. The dream of finding a few inscriptions or seals, well we found them. In any excavation you want to uncover more finds that shed a lot of light on history, and with our project, even just the statistics of the finds that we have can lead to new understandings.

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Data-mining TMSP data

Of all things, Zachi is very interested in the implementation of advanced quantitative analysis techniques in archaeology. This is what his MA thesis was about. He researched automatic typology methods and wrote about how to use data mining for analyzing archaeological databases to reveal patterns in the data, which consequently raise new research questions.

While Zachi has found a number of nice coins and some inscriptions for the project, the research and the library is more interesting for him. Like all of us, there are so many things that Zachi would like to research and to delve into, but unfortunately there just aren’t enough hours in the day. This is the never-ending problem of an archaeologist. You learn one thing that leads you into a whole new category of topics you didn’t even know you were interested in, which leads you to something else, and the process of learning and striving to know more and better understand is a lifelong pursuit.

This is what led Zachi to the British Mandate archives where he discovered a whole list of remnants and features on the Temple Mount that he was surprised had not been published. They help fill in the picture of the history of the Temple Mount and how it has been used over time. He wrote a whole article about this and we are now waiting for it to be expanded upon and translated into English. This is also a part of his PhD thesis that he has just started.

Basically, we are very lucky to have Zachi, his experience, and his passion for learning and truth leading our TMSP team. This is just a small glimpse into the man, but hopefully it gives you a little bit of insight into the quiet powerhouse behind our project.

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Discussing stone weights in the lab

Coming to New York!

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Start spreading the news. We’re coming! We want to be a part of it, New York, New York!

Zachi Dvira will be going to New York on a speaking tour from April 20th through April 30th. He will be visiting various Jewish organizations in and around Manhattan, and may even be making his way to New Jersey for a day. He will be speaking about the counter evidence to the Temple Denial Movement, the archaeological evidence from the Sifting Project, and other research and artifacts from other excavations in Jerusalem that provide evidence of the First and Second Temple.

These lectures are a fun way to help you learn the facts so that you can counter the Temple Denial Movement. Zachi has been studying the history of the Temple Mount for over 18 years. As well as being one of the founders of the Sifting Project, he has also had access to some unpublished research in archives from the British Mandate Period that shed a lot of light on the history of the Temple Mount.

If you are interested in attending one of these lectures, let us know! Email development@tmsifting.org and we will send you the specific times and places so that you can choose the one that works best with your schedule.

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We are also interested in perhaps doing a gala event; if not this trip, then perhaps the next. If you or your organization would like to host such an event, let us know so that we can start planning! It would be a great way to raise awareness about the project and the history of the Temple Mount as well as help us raise funds to publish our research.

Temple Denial: The Reality

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Getting serious for a minute. The following has many links to more information. Please read and share these sources so that this whole Temple Denial thing can become less of a fuzzy/taboo topic that goes unmentioned but is important.

All of the media that has been coming out about Israel and the Temple Mount that supports the Temple Denial movement just hurts my heart. As a researcher and an archaeologist, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that this “debate” is real and that the Temple Mount’s relationship to the people of the world is up for discussion.

coexist_by_piotr_mlodozeniecThe Temple Mount is a holy place to over half of the world’s population. It is a holy place to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and any attempt to deny the right of any one religion to feel a connection to a place as central to religious belief as the Temple Mount is wrong. Do Muslims have a right to pray on the Temple Mount? Yes. Do Jews and Christians have the right to have the Temples and the Temple Mount as a central piece of their religious beliefs? Yes.

Temple Denial takes away that right. Temple Denial says that those beliefs are worthless. There was never anything on the Temple Mount that relates to you. Even without any evidence from the past, this is a statement that is antithetical to the intellectuals crying out against propaganda and “fake news.” It is antithetical to those world leaders and UNESCO itself that signed the charter on Intangible Heritage, stating that those things we cannot prove or see are worth protecting. The rights of people to believe in a historical aspect of their religion is worth protecting.

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Artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods

That being said, there IS evidence of the long history of the Temple Mount. After the UNESCO resolution that named holy places like the Temple Mount as wholly Muslim, and disregarded non-arabic names for those places, we posted an article about the archaeological evidence of the Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount. That resolution not only denied the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, but the Christian one as well.

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A booklet published in 2014 and handed out to tourists on the Temple Mount

The Temple Denial Movement was begun in recent decades as Palestinian political and religious leaders began claiming that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. This claim, despite being counter to Islamic tradition, became canonized within Palestinian religious and political circles. Since the 2000 Camp David Summit, during which Yasir Arafat asserted that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem, “Temple Denial” has spread with increased virulence within the Middle East and the West, now also seemingly supported by the UN and UNESCO.

Arutz 2 interviewed our director, Zachi Dvira, to discuss this, and then followed up that interview with an amazing and viral segment (below) about the Temple Denial Movement and the Muslim claim to the site. As they said, “a narrative is a good thing, and it is possible to respect the values of each side. But there is also that small matter that is named: history, truth, and facts.”

It is unsettling, but many people are using the Palestinian narrative and that of the Temple Mount to promote anti-semitism and lies. As we saw in the Arutz 2 video (2:55) and the extended version in our video about the project (0:59), the regular person on the street in the Arab Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem wholeheartedly believes that there was nothing on the Temple Mount before the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

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Gaby teaches UCLA students on the Temple Mount on Jan 1, 2017 (photo credit: Ilan Ben Zion/Times of Israel)

This is due to the systematic spread of false information. Dr. Barkay just this past week was brought before the Israeli police on the Temple Mount in an attempt to evict him from the place for simply using the term “Temple Mount” while teaching the history of the Mount to a student tour-group. This followed the physical abuse of our laboratory staff on the Temple Mount by Waqf guards just a few months earlier for discussing the archaeological history of the site. Our own Frankie Snyder has also had issues guiding groups on the Temple Mount for showing images of reconstructions of the First or Second Temple.

This isn’t funny and this isn’t going to go away. The only possible recourse we have is to energetically share the truth about the Temple Mount. We commit to doing so. In light of all the recent media attempts to discredit the real history of the Temple Mount, we are more dedicated than ever to publishing our research on the archaeological history of the Temple Mount and sharing those truths with the scientific community and the public. It pains me that this is necessary, but we will strive to do our part in discrediting the Temple Denial Movement.

Thank you to all of you who have supported us over the years and who have given to support our research in our crowdfunding campaign. The messages and emails that we get from you, like this one, help strengthen our resolve and let us know that we are doing the right thing:

“Your work becomes more important everyday! With the UN decision and the US abstaining, and Kerry’s speech, your work is vital to bringing the truth to light!!!! Please know that the government’s attitude and treatment of Israel does not represent all Americans!!! I love Israel! I volunteered at TMSP 6 years ago on tour with Gordon Franz. It is a life changing experience! Keep up the amazing work bringing the truth to light!!!” –Lindsay from the US

May 2017 bring the true history of the Temple Mount to light.

 

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