An expert in artifacts from the historically rich Temple Mount in Jerusalem says that some of the timber from Solomon’s temple may have been turned into firewood.
And now there’s a threat more may be lost.
Breaking News Israel reported a pile of timbers recently appeared on the mount underneath a pile of refuse.
Visitors said the timbers, apparently covered with a tarp, were thought to have been in storage in an underground part of the mount called Solomon’s Stables.
Last winter, after Muslims rioted on the mount, the Muslim organization that manages it, the Waqf, asked permission from Israel to do renovations on the mount, and permission was denied.
The concern about artifacts being destroyed comes from Gabriel Barkey, an expert on artifacts who launched the Temple Mount Sifting project in 2005 after renovations by the Waqf moved 400 truckloads of material from the mount to landfills.
The loads contained artifacts that would have been lost forever, and Barkey’s efforts have resulted in the discovery and preservation of many “invaluable remnants” of the original Jewish Temples.
The BIN report by Adam Eliyahu Berkowtiz explained the timbers apparently had been in storage.
“The earthquake in 1927 caused extensive damage to the Aqsa Mosque, causing it to collapse,” Barkey told BIN. “The roofing beams were dismantled and later, at the request of the Waqf, the beams were studied by Robert W. Hamilton, director of antiquities for the British Mandate. He described most of the beams and wooden panels as being from the early Islamic Ummayad Dynasty from the Eighth Century. The best examples were taken to be displayed at the Rockefeller Museum near Jerusalem where they are on display to this day.”
He said other beams were stored underneath the Temple Mount in Solomon’s Stables.
“When that area was turned into the Marwani Mosque, the beams were moved and many of them disappeared,” Barkay said in the BIN report. “The leftovers were put in the outer courtyard next to the Golden Gate.”
He said some were sold to an Armenian wood merchant and even more disappeared.
“They were sold as scrap wood,” Barkay said. “It is quite possible that some ended up as firewood,” even though Arabic and Roman inscriptions were noted on them.
In March, rioters broke into an area of the Temple Mount adjacent to the Golden Gate that had been locked up for 16 years by court order after a Hamas affiliate used it as a meeting place, the report said.
“Their actions were in gross violation of agreements between Israel and Jordan concerning the site. In 1967 there was one mosque on the Temple Mount: the … al Aqsa. Due to Muslim expansionism, there are currently five areas set aside for Muslim prayer that are off-limits to non-Muslims. As per the initial agreement, non-Muslims are restricted from praying on the Temple Mount,” the report said.
The appearance of the timbers may mean the Muslims are doing renovations that have not been approved, the report said.
Some of the timbers were carbon dated in the 1970s. The older ones estimated to be from 630 B.C. to 830 B.C., when the First Temple likely stood.
They later apparently were used in the al-Aqsa Mosque, Barkey said.
“It is possible that when al Aqsa was first built, the builders used materials that were on site from the destroyed Jewish Temples,” he explained.