The story began under circumstances that were not happy at all: In 1999, the Muslim Waqf conducted extensive excavations on the Temple Mount without permission, and dumped tons of dirt into the nearby Kidron stream, a wealth of archaeological finds among it. Researchers and others who cared about these finds were immediately called to the scene, and with great effort, moved the dirt a little further, to Emek Tzurim. They set up a screening shed on the spot, which was designed to check what was hidden in the huge piles of dirt and to save everything possible from it. The discoveries amazed the archaeologists: ancient coins from the days of the Temple, Crusader arrowheads, ancient seals, precious mosaic stones, toys from the Roman period and more began to emerge from the dirt. The revelations significantly changed much of what we knew about Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular, and it is no wonder that the filtering project became news talked about all over the world.

Findings in emek tzurim

Photo: Eitan Asraf – Life from an angle you are not familiar with.

If at first they thought that the filtering would take a short time, it soon became clear that it is meticulous work that requires a delicate hand and a lot of attention, which means – years of work. The Ir David Foundation that sponsored the project then appealed to the general public to come and help. This is how, for the first time, children became involved in the filtering project of Emek Tzurim, and proved that sometimes a child’s sharp eye notices things that adults simply do not see. It is hard to describe how many exciting finds have been dug out of the dirt by children, who were given the opportunity to have their picture taken with them before they were taken to the museum. The sifting of the dirt from the Temple Mount, which was born out of compulsion following an archaeological crime, unwittingly became one of the rare and empowering experiences that children today can authentically experience in Jerusalem. Families who participated in the project described the exciting connection they felt to the heritage of our ancestors when they received “greetings” from them. It is no wonder that the Ir David Foundation has decided to make the screening project its main activity in Jerusalem this coming Hanukkah, and invites you, children and parents, to be archaeologists for a day and participate in the national project to save the remains of the Temple Mount in Emek Tzurim. Things are found there every day, and surprises are discovered in every bucket of dirt. Who knows – maybe you will discover the next Hasmonean coin?

A boy in Emek Zurim. Photography: Haim Tsach

Participation in the project includes a fascinating explanation of the history of the Temple Mount and the Temple as well as a crash course in archaeological excavation. Unlike any normal day, this Hanukkah you can enjoy an extra two special activities in Emek Tzurim: One is the minting of half the shekel according to a model discovered in excavations in Jerusalem, and the other is a fun cellphone navigation game for the whole family. This is an educational and challenging game that uses an app, in which you can wander through the valley with a map and solve riddles about Jerusalem and its history. You don’t need to be an expert, nor do you need special fitness, just a good brain and a good mood. The winners are those who meet the deadlines and solve all the puzzles in the shortest time. We’re waiting for you…!

Photo: Tamar Dick