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Sifting Through Ancient Jerusalem

Planning a multi-generational family trip to Israel? Are you seeking an activity that will equally excite the grandchildren, grandparents and everyone in between?

I recommend a hands-on archaeological activity suitable for participants of all ages and all physical abilities. You can play an active role in uncovering the ancient past of Jerusalem.

At the very center of ancient Jerusalem, we find the Temple Mount, a site of the utmost historical importance and holy to all three of the great monotheistic religions. Yet no archaeologist has ever had the opportunity to systematically excavate the site. In November 1999 approximately 9,000 tons of soil was illegally removed from the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf without any archaeological supervision. Approximately 350 truckloads of debris were dumped into the Kidron Valley, but later discovered by two Israeli archaeologists. The Israeli archaeologists managed to obtain permission to move the debris to a secure location. Now the challenge began.

What can we learn from thousands of tons of precious material removed from its physical context at one of antiquity’s most revered locations? How can we responsibly explore material evidence of the past that had previously been inaccessible? And who can we partner with to do the work required for this great endeavor?

The Temple Mount Sifting Project was born.

A system of wet sifting of the archaeological debris was developed. The technique was considered quite controversial at the start because archaeological excavations are normally conducted only “in situ” on site. But the great success of this project over the years has gained the wet sifting technique acceptance in the academic community. Where did the project find the manpower needed to sift through all of this material? From visitors to Israel like yourselves!

Today there are two sites in Jerusalem where tourists can assist in uncovering the past of Jerusalem. The duration of the activity is approximately two hours. You’ll be shown by professional staff how to carefully sift through the material and expert archaeologists will supervise your work. The activity is not physically demanding, so it’s appropriate for old and young alike. It’s fun. It’s educational. And it can be a team-building activity for families and groups.


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