On the eve of UNESCO’s Wednesday vote in Paris to ratify a resolution denying Jewish ties to Judaism’s holiest site, Temple Mount Sifting Project co-founder and archeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay dismissed the ballot as an affront to science and history.
The resolution, which refers to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al-Haram Al-Sharif – ostensibly eliminating its connection to Judaism and Christianity – is expected to be approved by the committee comprised of 21 member states at its 40th session.
“I’m an archeologist, not a politician,” Barkay said Tuesday at a press conference arranged by Media Central at the project’s headquarters in Jerusalem’s Emek Tzurim National Park.
“I cherish all civilizations of Jerusalem, without exception... Jesus and the Temple Mount are referred to in the New Testament over 20 times. Jesus went there prior to his crucifixion and overturned a table from money-changers and prophesied about the Temple Mount. So he who tries to jeopardize the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount actually undermines Christianity, because it is based on Jesus and his connection to the Temple Mount.”
The sifting project was created in 2004 with archeologist Zachi Dvira, under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University, to analyze thousands of years worth of Jewish antiquities that were illicitly dug up by Arab bulldozers on the contested compound in 1999 to build an entrance to a subterranean mosque.
Since then, the project has uncovered 500,000 relics spanning 15,000 years of history, with the help of some 250,000 volunteers and a full-time staff of 20. Last month, the organization made international headlines after restoring several tiles from the Herodian Second Temple complex.
Citing volumes of evidence of the First and Second Temples in the Bible, Mishna and by historian Flavius Josephus, Barkay said every synagogue in the world faces the direction of the Temple Mount, which, due to Jordan’s intervention, has become an “archeological black hole.”
“I think that it’s a disgrace to UNESCO and all the countries who are members of UNESCO, and I think it is a deplorable decision that is over-politicized, while ignoring historical and archeological facts,” he said.
“It also undermines the connection of Christianity to Jerusalem, something that was overlooked by the media around the world,” Barkay said.
“It is a disgrace to anybody who thinks of themselves as a civilized, intelligent person.”
Asked what can be done in the face of such profound historical revisionism, he said politics must be ignored in the pursuit of facts.
“As archeologists, we should continue to carry out our work and ignore this [resolution] and similar decisions,” he said.
Barkay said he takes issue with UNESCO’s seemingly politicized sharp focus on Jewish heritage sites in Jerusalem while Islamic State continues to flagrantly destroy thousands of years of archeological relics throughout the Middle East.
“It’s very interesting that archeological sites in Syria are blown up and demolished, and sites in Iraq are being bulldozed away, and what UNESCO is busy with is declarations about Jerusalem and its connection to Jewish heritage,” he said.
“Instead of praising Israel for its archeological work, which illuminates the past of the Temple Mount and other places, what we have is the opposite,” Barkay said. “It’s deplorable, but let’s remember that Israel has one voice, while the Arabs and their supporters have so many more voices, so they can come to the decision that the earth is flat, and they will have a majority.”