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"For the Freedom of Zion"

"During the first days of the project, a coin was recovered from the time of the Great Revolt against the Romans, preceding the destruction of the Second Temple. It bore the Hebrew phrase L'Herut Tzion, "'For the Freedom of Zion'." Click to read the original article.

Zachi Zweig, who first sounded the alarm in 2000, when the Moslem Wakf was discovered illegally dumping earth from the Temple Mount into the Kidron Valley, has graciously granted The Temple Institute permission to reproduce the images above, depicting both sides of a bronze coin, which dates from the time of The Great Revolt, (66-70 CE), and which bears the Hebrew inscription "לחרות ציון" - "For the Freedom of Zion."

Zachi, fellow archaeologist, Dr. Gabriel Barkay, and their team of volunteers have discovered more treasures from the "Temple Mount" dig, but prefer not to release additional photographs until they have arrived at more positive identification of the finds.

The coin shown above is similar in nature to coins minted during the Hasmonean uprising against the Greek-Assyrian occupiers, some 400 years earlier, as well as coins minted during the Bar Kochba revolution, which would break out in 132 CE.

In each instance, coins were used as a medium through which to declare the intended goal of the uprising: the liberation of the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and the Holy Temple, from the political and cultural domination of others.

Why were coins chosen for this purpose?

The ability to mint coins itself suggests a measure of independence, even if clandestine. Therefore, the mere appearance of coinage is a strike against the occupiers.

In as much as the coins have a monetary value, and are used for the purchase and exchange of goods, they represent commercial, and by extension, political independence.

The coins were often "re-minted" over existing coins in circulation. That is, a Roman coin was taken, and re-struck with the message of rebellion, in this case, "For the Freedom of Zion." Thusly, the illegal act of re-minting Roman coins became charged with the spirit of rebellion pronounced by the proclamation engraved on the coin.

Coins make up what we refer to as "currency." The Merrian-Webster Online Dictionary lists the following definition for currency:

     1 a : circulation as a medium of exchange b : general use, acceptance, or prevalence c : the quality or state of being current:
     CURRENTNESS
     2 a : something (as coins, treasury notes, and banknotes) that is in circulation as a medium of exchange b : paper money in
     circulation c : a common article for bartering d : a medium of verbal or intellectual expression

Currency, aside from being a medium of exchange, is also a media: a means for the circulation of ideas and ideals. To this day, national currencies bear the images of the heroic figures alongside statements of principle, in order to impart a political message along the monetary message. Two thousand years ago, before the widespread use of paper, or the invention of the printing press, radio, television, computer, internet, or cellphone, currency - coins - were one of the quickest and most effective ways of disseminating a message.

 

The Great Revolt

(66 - 70 CE)

By the first century of the common era, Rome had conquered most of the "civilized" world, including, of course, the land of Israel, and the Kingdom of Judea. Roman habit was to impose itself, not just politically and militarily, but culturally, as well, upon its conquered peoples. As in previous periods of foreign domination, political and military subjugation was tolerable to the Jews, but cultural oppression was not. The Jewish civilization, based, as it was, upon the recognition of and allegiance to a One, indivisible, invisible, omnipresent and omnipotent G-d, Creator of the universe, Who revealed His Torah at Sinai, and the moral imperative that derived from that revelation, set it irreversibly on a collision course with the Roman culture. The Romans were pagans, believers in many gods and demigods, (humans with divine powers). Often the Roman Caesar would declare himself such a demigod. The Roman idea of a good time was not feeding the poor, but filling stadiums for the amusement of watching gladiators, (slaves), slaughter each other. The Romans were willing to grant their subject nations a measure of political autonomy, but the price was complete cultural submission. The Jews bristled at this, and continued to go about their Jewish ways. Some, however, were bought either through bribery, or political intrigue, and became culturally assimilated into the Roman pagan world. These turncoat Jews provided the Romans with a local power base. In time, this tried and true method of oppression reached the Temple priesthood. Corruptible priests were rewarded by the Romans, who, intervening in the very heart of the spiritual nation, usurped the right to declare the position of high priest.

Decades of heavy taxation, the imposition of pagan culture in Jerusalem and elsewhere, the increasing presence and offensive behavior of Roman soldiers within the Temple complex, constant antagonism toward Jewish religious practices, outlandish demands, such as that of the emperor Caligula, to place a statue of himself within the Holy Temple, eventually proved more than the Jews could bear.

In the year 66, the Roman procurator, Florus, stole a large quantity of silver from the Temple. This sparked a violent reaction from the Jews, who overwhelmed and destroyed the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. A larger force of Roman soldiers was quickly sent in from neighboring Syria, to quell the nascent uprising, but they, too, were defeated by the Jews.

Encouraged by these stunning victories, the Jewish revolt increased in intensity. An all out war ensued. The Romans returned , 60,000 troops strong, and struck back in the Galilee, a center of rebellious activity. The result was the conquest of the Galilee. Some 100,000 Jews were killed or sold into slavery.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem had arrived at the opposite conclusion fro the Galilee. Not convinced that the Romans could be driven from Israel, the Jews of Jerusalem remained relatively quiet, hoping to survive what they had come to perceive as a misbegotten revolt.

However, when Jews surviving the Galilean massacres fled to Jerusalem, strife set in the holy city. The radical newcomers attempted to impose their will on the Jerusalemites, and spark further conflict with the Romans. As the Romans laid siege on Jerusalem, internecine violence broke out among the Jews of the embattled city. The Knai'im, or Zealots, imposed a reign of terror upon their fellow Jews, suspicious of their allegiance to the cause. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai succeeded in escaping the city, disguised as a corpse. He fled to the town of Kerem V'Yavne, where he established the beginnings of Jewish life that would exist after the Holy Temple was destroyed.

Ultimately, in the year 70, the Romans breached the city walls, and on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, ransacked and destroyed the Holy Temple, razing it to the ground. The Roman military action would continue for another three years, culminating in the the capture of the Massada fortress by the Dead Sea, in 73, where the Jews, when confronted with their imminent capture and sale into slavery, performed a mass suicide.

As many as one million Jews died in the Great Revolt, either by the sword, or through starvation and disease.

Six decades later, in the year 132 CE, a second rebellion, the Bar Kochba Rebellion, broke out. As with the Great Revolt, it began with Jewish victories over the Romans. Shimon Bar Kochba was a charismatic leader and a sometimes brilliant military general, but ultimately the sheer numbers and military might of the Roman war machine overwhelmed the Jews. The Jews were banished from Jerusalem and much of the land of Israel. The Roman emperor Hadrian had the Temple Mount plowed under, established there a pagan temple, renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina," and renamed the land of Israel "Palestine." Thus began the final and longest exile in the history of the Jewish nation.

The debacle of the Great Revolt was the result of a lethal mix of enflamed passions, overblown expectations, and baseless hatred that overwhelmed the Jews. Yet, the Jewish nation was the only nation to dare challenge the Roman oppression, and the Jewish warriors were the only warriors of that era to claim the impressive military victories that they achieved. Just as it is made evident in the story of the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish allegiance to G-d precludes their allegiance to any earthly power. The ultimate physical manifestation of the Jewish nation's covenant with G-d is the Holy Temple. For this reason it has always been the flash point for those who wish to sever the Jews from G-d, and destroy them. And for this reason it remains always the symbol of ultimate Jewish independence - freedom - from foreign oppression, and the ultimate symbol of the Jewish bond with G-d.

Glimmering through the dirt of two thousand years of oppression, genocide, and boundless hatred, this simple coin which bears the inscription, "For the Freedom of Zion," comes to remind us that our fight is far from over, and the wrong rendered the Jewish people will will not be righted until G-d's house is rebuilt and the divine service is restored on His holy mount - Mount Moriah - Jerusalem.

 

Monday, Feb 14, 2005

Archaeological sifting and research of the Temple Mount Debris

"For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust." (Psalms 102:15)

In November 1999, illegal construction and excavation work took place on the Temple Mount, causing irreparable damage to the area's archaeological treasures. This is part of a larger trend of illegal work carried out by the Wakf (the religious body in charge of Moslem holy sites) to change history and, in particular, to eradicate the remains of Jewish history on the Mount. The dirt dumps from these illegal works, saturated with archaeological finds, were removed by bulldozers and trucks and discarded in the Kidron Valley. Though these remains are no longer in their original context, include great and important archaeological potential. Systematic scientific archaeological excavation and supervision has never been permitted on the Temple Mount, and these dumps contain the only archaeological evidence available from the site.

For these reasons, archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, has undertaken the task of sifting through these dumps in order to conserve any archaeological information remaining in the ruins.

The project began in November 2004. Although we have sorted through less than twenty percent of the dumps, our work has already yielded important artifacts from various periods, from the First Temple Period until today. Among them are: a seal impression from the Second Temple period (five-pointed star with the word ירושלם (Jerusalem) inscribed on it), a few fragments of inscriptions from the First Temple Period, a large segment of a marble pillar's shaft, fragments of glass vessels from the Second Temple Period, various ornaments made of gold or bone, arrowheads from different periods (including a unique Scytho-Iranian arrowhead used by the Babylonians during the destruction of the First Temple), a cosmetic dish made of alabaster from the Persian or Post-Exillic Period, a fragment of an ornamented stone table from the Second Temple period, fragments of glazed bricks, ivory combs from the Second Temple Period, and scores of coins, of which the first one discovered was from the First Jewish revolt against the Romans with the phrase "For the Redemption of Zion". On Chanukah Eve, we discovered a Hasmonean oil lamp.

Furthermore, it is probably that we will continue finding valuable artifacts such as: seals, ostraca (pot-shards with writing on them), coins and other important architectural remains. These are just some examples of the types of artifacts that will greatly enhance our understanding of the functions of the Temple Mount throughout history.

But most of all, the very act of spending time and making the effort to examine debris from the Temple Mount transmits a very powerful message to the world about the importance of the site. Dr. Barkay likens this act to the respect we give to a deceased individual in burying his corpse.

The Project Plan

In the Kidron Valley, there were a large number of debris dumps (transported by approximately 100 trucks). We transferred these dumps to an alternative location, where they are safe and protected from external disturbances. We used a portable screener machine to do a preliminary sifting of the dumps. The machine created heaps of various sifting resolutions. High-resolution heaps have to be sifted again manually using water in order to identify the archaeological artifacts. These earth heaps need to be scrutinized, a process which is very time-consuming and labor-intensive. The archaeological materials extracted will need to be treated appropriately and documented for publication. Certain finds will need to be sent to laboratories for further research in Israel and abroad. Funds will be required for the research and publication of the materials.

Sincerely,

Gabriel Barkay, PhD.
Excavation Director and Senior Archaeologist
Zachi Zweig - Administrative Director and Archaeologist
 

To view other finds, click here.

 

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