Friday, October 09, 2015

NYTimes "Dig" Contra the Temple Mount

In this article, the NYTimes takes on the Jewish Temples and the Temple Mount.  Entitled "Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place", Rick Gladstone poses a question (see below for the paper's correction) 

"which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered...whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone."

His theme is 

Many historians have said independent scientific verification of such a reference is problematic


The sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified

Gladstone, Reporter and Editor on the paper's Foreign Desk  recently reported on migrants to Greece and Binyamin Netanyahu at the UN but doesn't seem to have any specific acquaintance with archaeology.

Matthew J. Adams, Dorot director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem appears and is quoted saying, "We just don’t have enough primary source data, textual or archaeological, to say where it was with any confidence...“It’s also an academically complex question.”. Rivka Gonen's boomk is noted.  Wendy Pullan is quoted saying "The sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified". Jane Cahill, who was a senior staff archaeologist for Hebrew University’s City of David Archaeological Project, says “nobody knows exactly” where the temples once stood, although “pretty powerful circumstantial evidence” suggests they were on the site.  Kent Bramlett of La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif. offers that historical records of the Roman committed destruction are “pretty overwhelming” in supporting the existence of the second temple in the immediate vicinity of the Dome of the Rock.

Unnamed archaeologists 

agree that the religious body of evidence, corroborated by other historical accounts and artifacts that have been recovered from the site or nearby, supports the narrative that the Dome of the Rock was built on or close to the place where the Jewish temples once stood.

Of course, the main problem* is excavations and the article informs us that the

Waqf has never permitted invasive archaeological work that could possibly yield proof of either temple.

and that

Because there have been no organized excavations there, and not likely to be, circumstantial evidence is probably all we’re going to have

Gaby Barkay and Tzachi Dvira are missing.  Eilat Mazar is missing.  Dan Bahat, too.  Even a Google search could have enriched the piece.  It is not clear if he consulted with anyone at the Rockefeller Museum or reviewed the works of Robert Hamilton and his 1949 "The structural history of the Aqsa Mosque: a record of archaeological gleanings from the repairs of 1938-1942" or Jon Seligman's article in this collection.  And so many more academic articles that would provide a more balanced picture. And where is the purposeful destruction of Jewish artifacts by the Waqf?

Another dig at Jewish history and Zionism.


Don't forget, in the dirt tossed out 20 yrs ago Gaby Barkay has been finding 1st Temple remains. and Muhmammed's flight on a winged horse to a place that there couldn't have been a mosque prior to 630 is taken at face value to justify the Dome of the Rock & Al-Aqsa?

A good book. A good article.

(note: I have added some material after a first posting)


*   A note I received:  NYT Article conflates Islamic holiness of Aqsa mosque with Dome of the rock. Of course there's no mention of the doubt that Mohammed or his horse ever visited Jerusalem.


From Martin Kramer:

In fact, Muslims originally regarded the site as holy precisely because the temples once stood there. To claim otherwise is extremist incitement, of which there’s already plenty to go around.

Other blog posts

Satlow, that is Dr. Michael Satlow, a professor of religious studies and Judaic studies at Brown University and on that Satlow piece.


Washington Examiner

At Twitter.

Liel Leibowitz writes

To be fair, Gladstone’s ignorance is all-embracing. 

Jonathan Tobin.

And now they are backtracking:

Correction: October 9, 2015

An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.

And not the first time Gladstone had to be corrected.

And now from CAMERA

Would the Times Question the Muslim Narrative?
Finally, it should be noted that Muslim attachment to the Temple Mount site is due to the presence there of the al-Aqsa – or "furthest" – Mosque, reputed to be the site of Prophet Mohammed's night journey to heaven. However, as many scholars have pointed out, the first version of the al-Aqsa Mosque was built by the Caliph Omar after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 637, well after Mohammed's death in 632. Thus the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is unlikely to be associated with Mohammed's night journey. Furthermore, nowhere is Jerusalem even mentioned in the Quran.
Recall that the Times quoted Wendy Pullan saying that "the sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified." So, using exactly the same logic, will the Times publish an article saying that the "sources for Mohammed's presence in Jerusalem are solely Quranic, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified"? Will the Times publish an article questioning more generally the entire Muslim narrative of Jerusalem?

Don't hold your breath.


 the Times quotes an academic Temple skeptic:

The Times is either unaware or keeps from readers that Pullan is not some disinterested scholar. She is an anti-Israel activist who has signed her name to petitions supporting boycotts of Israel based on its supposed "breaches of international law."
"The sources for the first temple are solely biblical, and no substantial archaeological remains have been verified," said Wendy Pullan, senior lecturer in the history and philosophy of architecture at the University of Cambridge, in the book "The Struggle for Jerusalem's Holy Places."

And I'm adding Paleo-Judaism who writes that the article has "bogus historical assertions...irresponsible journalism. The two questions are not hard to mix up: one is a real question and the other is made-up Palestinian propaganda. They should have known better."

And this -
I have just received an e-mail from Joseph I. Lauer indicating that Jodi Magness, one of the specialists quoted in the article, has written to the Times protesting and correcting the misrepresentation of scholarship in this article. Her letter will be published by the Times.** 


** Jodi Magness' response letter:

To the Editor:

I am one of the specialists interviewed for “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place” (news article, Oct. 9).

The question of the existence and location of two successive temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is not nearly as contested as the article suggests.

Literary sources leave little doubt that there were two successive ancient temples in Jerusalem dedicated to the God of Israel (the first destroyed in 586 B.C., and the second in 70 A.D.) These sources and archaeological remains indicate that both temples stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.

The only real question is the precise location of the temple(s) on the Temple Mount. The site of the Dome of the Rock is the most likely spot for various reasons, despite the lack of archaeological evidence or excavations. I know of no credible scholars who question the existence of the two temples or who deny that they stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.

Chapel Hill, N.C.

The writer is a professor specializing in early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And Ari Lamm thinks the reporter made

a fairly substantial mistake, with rather obvious implications. And it is difficult for me to conceive of a scenario in which a reporter could speak to experts of this caliber and come away with even the slightest impression that anyone credible doubts that the temples stood somewhere on the Temple Mount. My suspicion is that bias in favor of casting every dispute in the region as a case of he-said-she-said did play a role in encouraging this interpretation—one which happens to promote, on pseudo-scientific grounds, the total erasure of Jewish identity from this space... the Times has committed a double sin against history. By making scholars appear to cast doubt on the presence of Jewish temples on the Temple Mount, the newspaper is not just entirely mischaracterizing their views. It also makes it seem as though the ongoing Palestinian campaign to erase the Jewish historical connection to the Temple Mount is grounded in respectable scholarly argument, rather than in politics and prejudice.



NoraA said...

If the Dome of the Rock is so Holy to the Muslims why are they using the area around it as a sports field, barricading the doors and using it as a staging area for terrorism against the local police and tourists?

The fact that the walls of the 1st and 2nd Temple (the Wailing Wall) are still standing should be proof enough that this was the site of the Holy Temple.

YMedad said...

Amazing that the NYTimes couldn't figure that last part out