"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'."
to read the
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 , (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
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 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:
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.
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
|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.
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
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
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.
Gabriel Barkay, PhD.
Excavation Director and Senior Archaeologist
Zachi Zweig - Administrative Director and Archaeologist
To view other finds, click .
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