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Dec 29, 2008

Touring in Eretz Yisrael: Sifting back through time

After some recent press releases regarding spectacular finds of various types of coins in the rubble that was removed by the Waqf from Temple Mount, w decided the time had finally come. This is something we wanted to do for a while, but never got around to it. Yesterday my boys had off from school for Hanukkah, so it was the perfect opportunity.

After a pleasant morning of hanging out with the kids, we headed out to Jerusalem. We were going to help sift through dirt and rubble looking for artifacts from as far back as the days of the Temple.

The Waqf has been excavating and working in the caverns under Temple Mount, and have removed tons of soil and disposed of it, destroying Jewish artifacts in the process. The Antiquities Authority has commandeered [much of] the soil and removed it to the Tzurim Valley, which has since become a National Park, and has been sifting through it to find remnants of our history.

The sifting is open to the public (for a nominal fee), and we decided to go. Emek Tzurim is a bit difficult to find. You have to maneuver your way through the complex roads of East Jerusalem in the area between Har HaTzofim (by the Hebrew University Campus) and Har Hazeisim. The site is not well marked, but if you know what to look for, you will see the sign.
You park and walk down. They have made the whole area into a National Park and the grounds are beautiful with a stunning view of the valley and of East Jerusalem across the way.

At the bottom is the entrance to the site. After paying the nominal fee in the office, they have a guide giving explanations of what they do and how it works. We did it kind of backwards. You are supposed to make an appointment to come, but we did not know that and just showed up. We got lucky it was a quiet day, so they let us in anyway.

A staff member gives the explanation of the history, what they look for, what they have found in the past, and how to do the sifting.
The image below is a sample of the most recent and exciting find of some coins from the Temple era.
After that it is time to get to work. Everybody goes to a sifting station, mostly working in pairs. You take a bucket of rubble, pour it into the sifting station, and hose off the mud. You then sift through the rocks and rubble looking for artifacts.

The majority of the artifacts to be found in any given bucket consist of pottery. Some of the pottery is pretty worthless, but some of it can be identified as being from different time periods, and what type of item they came from. For example, we found some remnants of pottery from oil lamps.

Aside from pottery, they are interested in any pieces of metal or glass, pieces of mosaic, unusual stones such as marble, or pieces of columns or walls, pieces of bone, seashells (used in decoration and jewelry -I found one).

Here is a sample of what I found in one of my buckets of rubble. The largest percentage is pottery, but I found mosaic, glass, bone, scraps of metal and unusual stones.

The ultimate find is a coin or an arrowhead. In the short time we were there, two coins were found, and a piece of metal that might be from the tip of a spear based on its size and shape. They all have to go to labs to be cleaned up and analyzed before they can determine what they are and exactly when they are from.

My son found one of the coins. It is very interesting what they do. First of all, finding a coin is very exciting. When someone finds a coin, they call everyone over to look at it. Then they bag it, and write down all the details they have, including who found it. After they send it to the lab and get the information back, a process which takes about a month they said, they might put it in a museum, depending how important and rare of a coin it is, attributing the find to the person who found it. So my son might get his name on a display of a coin in the Israel Museum! Furthermore, when they get all the info back, they email the details of the find to the finder, so he knows the importance of what he found.

Then to conclude, they show a display case of thins they have found, and they describe how they identify items and what they are part of, and how they compare it to items from different time periods.
Overall it was very exciting, and it really made you feel like you bare connecting to the history. Especially on Hanukkah, to find pieces of oil lamps from the Temple times, was exciting. This is something we will probably go back and do again.


  1. I really liked how you Israelis conclude Hanukah. All that killing and blood on the doorsteps of the followers of Allah.

    Allah is the best planner.

    You should be ashamed of your people and YOURSELVES.

    Uncivilized and unbelieving. OBVIOUSLY.

    NO Believer in Allah would commit the horror of even setting foot in Israel knowing that it is paved with the blood and bones of Palestinians.

    Your houses are tainted by more than just your history of killing prophets.

  2. cool post!

    oh and wow a hater!! congrats! now you KNOW you're doing good!



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