January/February 2000

Interview: Dr. Gabi Barkay On Temple Mount Excavations

IMRA interviewed archeologist Dr. Gabi Barkay of Bar Illan University, Land of Israel Studies Department, in English, on 24 January.

IMRA: Do you have a sense as to how much damage was caused by the excavations at the Temple Mount?

BARKAY: No I don't have. Nobody knows what was destroyed there and that is the tragedy. There was no recording and the dig was done clandestinely at night by heavy machinery and trucks and nobody knows. Only the result is there.
IMRA: I have spoken with people from the Wakf and they say that if you look at photographs from 60 or 80 years ago that the area excavated didn't exist. That the area being excavated was basically modern landfill.
BARKAY: This is outrageous. Totally incorrect. The Temple Mount has never been touched archeologically. Its surface has not even been properly surveyed. Nothing is known about the Temple Mount and all the aerial photographs that we have since the beginning of photography all indicate that that area did not change much since antiquity. What was done there is destruction.
IMRA: Is there any indication of what was destroyed from the excavated material dumped in the Kidron Valley?
BARKAY: By the way, the illegal dumping in the Kidron Valley that ruins the landscape there is another violation. It is very strange that nobody has done anything against the illegal activity of the excavation or the dumping.
IMRA: Have you had a look at the excavated material now dumped in the Kidron Valley?
BARKAY: Yes, as have others. I found pottery from many different periods in the dumped material going back to the 8th century BC - First Temple Period and onwards. I saw this pottery with my own eyes.
IMRA: What information was lost by seeing the pottery only after it was dumped in Kidron?
BARKAY: Wherever you dig in Jerusalem has a mixture pottery and finds from different periods. This is what tells us about the history of a particular place. The exact position of the various pieces of pottery vis-a-is each other and the earthen layers, which include the pottery are clues to the history of the sight. If this is eliminated then we don't have the history.

The Temple Mount is almost three times the size of the City of David and we know nothing about it, as it was never excavated. It is one of the most essential parts of the ancient story of Jerusalem. Anything we learn about it is new and here we had an opportunity.

Nobody said that there can't be a new entrance to a mosque built - just that it could have been done more carefully, honoring the cultural values of the past of Jerusalem and honoring the law.

IMRA: What would you say about the work of the Antiquities Department?
BARKAY: Their job, by law, is to safeguard the antiquities of the country and they aren't doing it. They have somebody having higher authority disturbing them. Telling them what to do and about what to be quiet.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director
IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
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