'We experience the destruction year-round'

Archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkai speaks of battles against the Waqf and Palestinian temple-denial: 'They want to have their cake and eat it.'

Hezki Baruch,

Dr. Gabriel Barkai
Dr. Gabriel Barkai
Photo: Hezki Baruch

Dr. Gabi Barkai, the archaeologist in charge of the "earth-sifting" project on the Temple Mount, in which dirt dumped by Waqf bulldozers is sifted to find the archaeological treasures within, told Arutz Sheva today (Sunday) about the recent incident in which archaeologists were attacked by members of the Jordanian Waqf.

"I can only tell you that I was there, and I witnessed extreme violence. I will continue my activities on the Temple Mount as long as the state of Israel allows me to," Barkai said.

The sifting operation has been ongoing for 12 years now, and has yielded nearly half a million archaeological finds dating back as far as the first temple era. Among the finds are arrowheads used by the Roman legions who destroyed the second temple. "We work here sifting earth that originated on the Temple Mount. All of it has a grayish color, which it acquired from the fire that burned the temple. On a daily basis we find burned animal bones, or objects with burn marks, and objects that belong to the first temple and second temple eras, so for us there's no escaping thoughts of the destruction of the temple year round, and especially in this time in the Jewish calendar when we all mourn for the temple.

"I'm constantly in a state of continuing excitement and emotion. It's not that I didn't know the temple was destroyed, of course I did; but when I have tangible testimony that I can hold in my hand, it's a remarkable thing," says Dr. Barkai.

According to Barkai, when dealing with a place of such significance as the Temple Mount, even a toothbrush can be too blunt a tool for finding the archaeological treasures, and the fact that the Waqf has used bulldozers show how bad the situation is. "This is part of a general trend of extreme Muslim elements destroying everything which isn't Muslim.

"As of the 90s there is a new and surprising trend among Muslims and Palestinians of temple denial. A very odd thing seeing as Arab sources themselves mention the 'Temple of Solomon', the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. This denial is new. They now say there was no temple, 'show us the remains'.

"If they let me dig I'll show them the remains. They want to have their cake and eat it: to prevent digging and then claim that there are no remains. I'm sure that if properly monitored archaeological digs were conducted on the Temple Mount we'd find the remains of the temple, but all this will happen in the future, maybe when the Messiah comes.

"There's lots more to do and find on the Temple Mount," says Dr. Barkai, and invites the public to experience the Mount: "You can all come here to touch the ground at the Temple Mount, and experience history."



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