Friday, November 11, 2011

Archaic Aramaic Bible?

ODDITY: Archaic Aramaic Bible.

More on the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project

THE DIGITAL DEAD SEA SCROLLS PROJECT is covered by AlMasry AlYoum: Dead Sea Scrolls, free at last. Excerpt:
Youssef Zeidan, director of the Manuscript Center and Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, feels that the digital facsimiles, despite claims of excellent clarity and magnification capabilities, are not tools for scholarly research.

“I cannot say something serious or real about these pictures. They are just pictures,” says Zeidan.

Zeidan lamented the fragmented nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, parts of which are spread out in museums across the world.

“When the scrolls were first discovered, Israeli institutions took some of them, some went to Europe and other places, and now we just have some copies,” he explains. “We cannot study these scrolls in the correct way because they are not complete.”

Mohamed Hawary, Professor of Jewish Religious Thought and Comparative Religions at Ain Shams University echoed Zeidan’s sentiments, saying “I advise scholars, if they want to study manuscripts to examine the original.”

Nonetheless, Hawary suggests that the digitization of the scrolls may encourage scholarship in general, and particularly among Arab scholars, for whom it is difficult to travel to Israel, or even to Europe or the United States.

“The fact that they are available will be helpful for scholars because now if I want to start to study documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls I can study them online, instead of living in Israel or going to Israel.”

Still, according to both Zeidan and Hawary, no scholar can publish anything that will be taken seriously without examining the actual documents.

“I could study the documents online, but before I finish or publish anything I would go for two nights to see the original,” notes Hawary.

And the fact remains that the community of scholars with the knowledge necessary to interpret the scrolls is very small. Michael Reimer, professor of History at the American University in Cairo, suggested the importance of the digitization of the scrolls has been overblown for precisely this reason.

“I do not think the fact that they are now available online makes very much difference because you have to have very specialized knowledge to read these things,” says Reimer.

It may be characteristic of scholars who deal so exclusively in the disintegrating fragments of ancient times to be dismissive of advances in technology. But the general accessibility of the scrolls may have consequences no one can foresee.

“Maybe a new generation of scholars will come around and look at this with a methodology that we do not even have now,” says Reimer.
Some valid points here, but I would nuance them a little. The scrolls on display so far are very well preserved, have been studied extensively, and are all available in good editions. The photographs published by this project are useful up to a point for things like palaeography, but I would be surprised if they helped anyone establish new readings in damaged passages. For that it is correct, with one important caveat below, to say that you need to look at the original. But in most cases these well-preserved scrolls have been so closely studied that most, although perhaps not quite all, likely readings have already been established. But for less-studied, more damaged scrolls, direct examination of the original is more important.

I remember once when I was working on the Cave Four Genesis and Exodus manuscripts in Jerusalem, Émile Puech and I had to look at one spot in a Genesis fragment through a powerful magnifying glass to establish that a place on the leather was not damaged, but represented a space between two damaged letters. This limited the options for possible readings and established that there was a large haplography in the line (that is, a good part of a verse had accidentally not been copied). I had examined the originals when writing my dissertation, but I hadn't examined this spot closely enough, so the re-examination with Émile allowed me to correct the reading in the final publication. If you want to look at the passage, it is Genesis 42:15 in 4QGenj frag. 5, which you can find in DJD 12, pp. 69-70 and plate 9. I have noted a similar, if less dramatic, story here.

The caveat: for the many manuscripts that have become discolored by age a regular photograph is not much use, because the scroll leather tends to darken to about the same color as the carbon ink, so many scrolls are unreadable both from visible-light photographs and even from the original. In such cases, infrared photographs bring the ink out so it is visible again. The contrast can be dramatic. I have noted an example (which I also edited) here. I see from a past post that the infrared photos taken in the 1950s are slated to go online as well, and in some cases these could be more useful than consulting the originals. More on infrared photography and the Dead Sea Scrolls here.

Background to the Google/Israel Museum Digital Dead Sea Scrolls Project here and links.

Audio on ASOR and Shiloh

ARUTZ SHEVA: Audio: ASOR from the Inside; In the Light of Shilo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Talmud and liberal arts education

POLITICS DAY! In this case the politics of the higher education bubble in Israel and the relevance of Talmud studies to the discussion.
Think Again: Talmud Study and the Liberal Arts

11/09/2011 21:27 By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM (Jerusalem Post)

Put in terms of a choice between a no-nonsense course of study and what – the study of nonsense? – perhaps we should rejoice in the declining number of humanities students.

The Jerusalem Post’s November 1 editorial “In praise of liberal arts” lamented the everdwindling percentage of Israeli students opting for bachelor’s degrees in the humanities.


IF ONE key test of a liberal education is the ability to learn new skills, then talmudic learning could be an important component. True, talmudic learning will not teach one math, unless one studies the rabbis’ complex calculations of the lunar cycle; nor will it provide grounding in a specific science. But it is not irrelevant to any of these pursuits. And the combination of intellectual rigor, discipline and concentration required is unsurpassed.

The great Harvard medievalist Harry Austryn Wolfson described talmudic study as “the application of the scientific method to the study of texts.” Hypotheses are continually being formulated and either successfully defended or rejected. The Talmud says that one who studies alone grows stupid, and the battles between study partners are nothing less than the “wars of Torah.” Even when one studies alone, he must act as his own study partner, constantly asking: Does my theory fit all the facts? Is there another way to explain all the relevant data? Students must learn to follow complex arguments that proceed over pages of text, and to hold firm at each step as to whether the argument is being advanced or questioned. Ten-year-olds learn to apply, without being aware of it, the tables taught in mathematical logic to actual cases.

At every level, the student is exposed to conflict and competing views. The Tannaim of the Talmud argue with one another; the Amoraim argue with one another and over the proper understanding of the Tannaim. The Rishonim (early commentators on the Talmud) differ from one another over the principles that emerge from the debates of the Talmud, and sometimes over the text itself. Each Rishon must be understood on his own terms, and in terms of why he argues with another Rishon.

But while a single right answer can never be given in talmudic debate, it is often possible to demonstrate that a particular solution is wrong. Thus Talmud study is the antithesis of much of contemporary academia, which, in Mead’s words, “encourages mushy thinking about mushy disciplines.” One cannot just offer opinions; one must argue propositions. That itself is a healthy antidote for the young for whom the height of wisdom is: Everything, including morality, is a matter of opinion, and all opinions are equally valid – a view, incidentally, held by no great thinker of the past, no matter how greatly they differed with one another.

Though the study will not teach elegant prose style, it demands clarity of expression and the ability to structure a logical argument. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, the great 19th- and early 20th-century talmudic genius, whose style of analysis dominates much of contemporary talmudic study, emphasized that there is no such thing as a concept that cannot be expressed.

Finally, the study of Talmud places one in a dialogue with many of the greatest minds in Jewish history, and grounds a Jewish student in his own culture – one in which the legal and moral realms are seamlessly intertwined.
A traditional liberal arts education (as opposed to, say, deconstruction-of-the-Justin-Bieber-canon studies) introduces students to the best thoughts and literature that humanity has produced. It also teaches them to think critically about those thoughts and writings and to write well-thought-out, well-organized, grammatical prose containing their own critical thoughts. These are skills that employers are desperate to find. Liberal arts degrees, properly done, (and including Talmudic studies as a liberal arts discipline) accomplish all of this as long as the students have the ability to master the material in the first place. (And if they don't, they don't belong at university.) As for the STEM subjects, those studying them still need a good selection of individual liberal arts courses to refine their writing and reading skills and develop their broader critical-thinking skills.

Another recent post on education and Talmudic studies is here. And note also my post from last year on Why we need Akkadian (and the humanities).

UNESCO-Palestine politics and France

POLITICS DAY! The UNESCO decision about Palestine comes up in this press release: World Jewish Congress Leaders Held Talks With French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The relevant passage:
WJC Secretary-General Dan Diker raised the issue of Palestinian unilateralism at the United Nations with the French president. He warned of the dangers which the Palestinians' strategy posed, as witnessed by their acceptance as a new member of UNESCO, and said the PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas in his recent UN speech had even denied that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. "UNESCO could become a platform to uproot the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to Israel with a new, fabricated Palestinian narrative," Diker warned.

Sarkozy explained that the French vote in favor of Palestinian UNESCO membership had been the lesser of two evils but he reiterated did not mean that his government would support such a move a the UN Security Council.
Background here and links.

Emek Shaven on the Mamilla Cemetery

DID I MENTION POLITICS? David Stacey has sent this link to an Emek Shaveh web page on the Mamilla Cemetery/Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance: The Mamilla Cemetery in West Jerusalem: A Heritage Site at the Crossroads of Politics and Real Estate.

Background here with endless links.

Debate over archaeology amendment in Israel

Archaeologists criticize new bill for 'politicizing' Israel Antiquities Authority
Sole vote against bill comes from MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), who charged that the bill's 'true purpose' was to make it easier to add a political appointee to the post.

By Nir Hasson and Jonathan Lis Tags: Israel archeology Knesset

The Knesset passed a bill in first reading on wednesday that would abolish a rule requiring the chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority to be a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

The bill, which will now go to committee for further discussion, passed by a vote of 30-1. The sole vote against the bill came from MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ), who charged that the bill's "true purpose" was to make it easier to add a political appointee to the post.

This debate has been going on since July. Background here and links.

Egyptian blogger in LA Times again

THE EGYPTIAN BLOGGER'S PLIGHT continues to be covered by the LA Times:
Egyptian mother on hunger strike to free blogger son from prison

November 9, 2011 | 7:35 am

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- The mother of a prominent Egyptian blogger has gone on a hunger strike until her son is released from jail after his arrest on what human rights groups call trumped-up charges to silence critics of the nation’s ruling military council.

Laila Soueif, an activist and mathematics professor at Cairo University, told the media she will not eat until her son, Alaa Abdel Fattah, is freed from military custody. The case has put further pressure on the generals who have run Egypt since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Abdel Fattah was detained on accusations he incited sectarian violence last month during a protest by Coptic Christians. Armed thugs and military police attacked the demonstrators, killing 24 Christians amid growing religious tensions. Abdel Fattah refused to be questioned by military prosecutors, saying the army, not him, was responsible for the deaths.

Good for the Times. Now what about the rest of the mainstream media?

Background here.

UPDATE (11 November): The story has been reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

2013 Conference on Mandaeism in Stockholm

JAMES MCGRATH notes a 2013 Conference on Mandaeism at the University of Stockholm.

A modern reissue of a Sibylline Oracle

PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH (sort of): At Facebook, Vincente Dobroruka notes this modern reissue of an ancient Sibylline Oracle:
El Cant de la Sibil-la

The Song of the Sibyl (El Cant de la Sibil la in Catalan) is a traditional liturgical drama that used to be performed on Christmas Eve, the lyrics of which describe a prophecy of the Apocalypse. The work was named one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. With this recording, Montserrat Figueras established her reputation of the unsurpassed priestess of the repertoire. This reissue is a must-have for any lover of ancient music.
More on the piece here. More on the Sibylline Oracles here and links.

Another obituary for Ben Zion Wacholder

ANOTHER OBITUARY FOR BEN ZION WACHOLDER, this one by Michael A. Meyer, has been published at the SBL website. Click here to download it as a pdf file.

UPDATE: Bad link now fixed!

VIdeo: In Search of Herod's Tomb

JERUSALEM POST VIDEO: In search of Herod's tomb.

More on Herod's tomb (and whether that's what it is) here and links.

The chief excavator, Ehud Netzer, died about a year ago as a result of an accident at the site. For many obituaries and further discussion of the tomb, see here and follow the links.

New book: Kinght & Levine, "The Meaning of the Bible"

Leading Scholars Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levin Explore the Historical and Literary Forces in the Bible in Their New Book, 'The Meaning of the Bible'

In THE MEANING OF THE BIBLE, Preeminent biblical scholars Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levine deliver the fullest introduction to the Old Testament—also known as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible—ever, offering a wealth of highly readable historical background and social context, plus an examination of the meaning and aesthetic value of the sacred literature at the heart of Judaism and Christianity.
Follow the link for the whole press release.

Detained Egyptian blogger update

March to support detained activist; mother on hunger strike

By Mai Shams El-Din /Daily News Egypt November 8, 2011, 4:39 pm

CAIRO: Hundreds marched Monday from downtown Cairo to support activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, detained for 15 days pending investigation by the military prosecution.

His supporters plan another solidarity March Wednesday that will end in front of Tora prison, where he is currently detained.

Abdel Fattah faces charges of inciting violence during the Maspero clashes between army forces and Coptic protesters.

On Oct. 30 he refused to be interrogated by the military prosecution because he is a civilian and since he believes that the military establishment is party to the crime
they’re probing and hence should not be investigating the Maspero incidents in the first place.

Abdel Fattah's mother, university professor Laila Soueif, also a prominent activist and member of March 9 Movement for Universities' Independence, has started an open-ended hunger strike until her son is released to draw attention to her his case and that of 12,000 civilians who have been tried in military courts since a popular revolt toppled the Mubarak regime in February.

It is a shame to see the new Egyptian Government squandering its own moral credibility like this.

Background here and links.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Report on Alan Crown conference

A BRIEF REPORT ON THE CONFERENCE IN HONOR OF ALAN CROWN at Sydney University has been posted by Simon Holloway at Davar Akher.

Background here.

James McGrath on "Jesus mythicism"

JAMES MCGRATH has an essay in The Christian Century taking on "Jesus Mythicism." James puts a lot of effort in his blog on refuting this particular brand of nonsense and the article summarizes some of the main points against it.
Fringe view
The world of Jesus mythicism

Nov 07, 2011 by James F. McGrath

Scholars disagree about how Jesus understood his life and his mission. Countless labels have been applied to him: cynic sage, apocalyptic prophet, rabbi, exorcist, Messiah. But everyone agrees that he existed, right?

Historians and religion scholars do. But a surprising number of people hold the view that the existence of Jesus is a myth: he is not just a heavily mythologized historical figure, but pure or nearly pure fabrication from start to finish. Jesus mythicists have a substantial web presence, and their views have been promoted in films such as Religulous and Zeitgeist.

It might seem best to ignore such fringe claims. But as we know from debates over evolution and other subjects, views that no expert finds persuasive can still have an impact on public discourse, education and much else.


Interview with "The Dovekeepers" author

ALICE HOFFMAN, author of The Dovekeepers, is interviewed in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Author interview: Alice Hoffman

By John Wilkens, Reporter - People

Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 6 a.m.

Alice Hoffman has been writing novels of magic realism for more than 30 years. Her latest, “The Dovekeepers,” is set in ancient Israel at the siege of Masada.

A resident of the Boston area, she will be at the 17th annual San Diego Jewish Book Fair on Thursday for a noon talk. She answered questions recently by email.

For reviews, etc., of The Dovekeepers, see here and links.

Modern Hebrew Lectureship at Wellesley

Wellesley College seeks applications for a non-tenure track appointment in Modern Hebrew language instruction, for up to two years with the possibility of renewal, beginning in Fall 2012. Responsibilities of the position include teaching two courses in Elementary and two courses in Intermediate Hebrew and a commitment to the development of a thriving Hebrew language program as part of an interdisciplinary program in Jewish Studies. Salary is competitive and commensurate with credentials; the successful application will be a benefits eligible member of the Wellesley College faculty with access to a conference travel budget and competitive faculty awards to support research.

Please send by November 15, 2011 a letter of application, c.v., graduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a teaching portfolio through our online application system at: (The online application will request names/email addresses so that recommenders or dossier services may submit the letters directly.). If circumstances make it impossible to submit any materials through our application site, please email us

BAR profiiles Zuckerman's epigraphic photography

BRUCE ZUCKERMAN'S EPIGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHY is profiled by Biblical Archaeology Review in their Bible History Daily series: New Eyeballs on Ancient Texts. And be sure to click through (or here) for Professor Zuckerman's essay of the same title in the current issue of BAR.

More on his work here with many links.

Trendy Tetragrammaton

THE TETRAGRAMMATON is trendy these days, according to Philologos in The Forward: How Yahweh Got Its Verbal Vibe Back: Ancient Hypothetical Word for God Gains New Popularity.

Indeed, part of what has happened is American Christian philo-Semitism itself. Never before in history have so many Christians had such a positive attitude toward Judaism, and this also means a positive attitude toward the God of Judaism. Never mind that, for Jews, “Yahweh” strikes no chord of recognition. For some Christians — Wehner apparently being one — its adoption represents a rapprochement with Judaism and recognition that the Christian and the Jewish God are the same.

Paradoxically, however, another part of what has happened is Christianity’s perceived liberation, as it were, from one of Judaism’s last fetters. Already with the publication of the American Standard Version of the Bible in 1885, in which, for the first time in the history of Bible translation, “Jehovah” was used regularly for yud-heh-vav-heh, the translators’ introduction stated that “a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament.” In 1995, taking this one step further, a revised ASV, now called the World English Bible, began to appear with — once again, a historical first — “Yahweh” in place of “Jehovah.” In this case, the trend of returning to the “authentic” God of the Bible means returning to a God who is pre-Jewish.
The photo of Bono belting out The Name is priceless.

Reviews of NYC DSS exhibit

THE NYC DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is reviewed by Alex Joffe in Jewish Ideas Daily: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Alive in Times Square.

Discovery Times Square might seem like an unlikely place for this exhibit; indeed, putting ancient Jewish sectarian religious documents in such a venue, rather than a staid setting like the Metropolitan Museum uptown, may even seem gauche. But in fact, nothing could be more logical than finding the biblical past at the crossroads of America's family-friendly tourism and entertainment center. The biblical world and the Dead Sea Scrolls have escaped the prison of high culture and now appear alongside an exhibit on the forensic sciences and the popular television show CSI.
UPDATE: Another review, this one in the Washington Times: Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient Israel artifacts debut in NYC.

UPDATE: Joseph Lauer alerts me to two more reviews of the exhibit:

Dead Sea Scrolls on display in Times Square, by Sergey Kadinsky in the Jewish Star

Review of Discovery Time Square’s Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit, by Jeffrey García at the Helek Tov blog.

Monday, November 07, 2011

More on the Erasure History Conference

MORE ON THE ERASURE HISTORY CONFERENCE at the NT Blog. It's good to see counterfactual history catching on.

Noted earlier here.

The Talmud Blog now has a Book Club

THE TALMUD BLOG now has a Book Club.

KJB@400 WATCH: Robert Alter's 'Pen of Iron' -- A Review

KJB@400 WATCH: Robert Alter's 'Pen of Iron' -- A Review (Peggy Burc at The Shelf Life). Excerpt:
"Pen of Iron" explains the unique relationship that Americans have with the ancient Israelites by way of the King James Bible, a relationship that has revealed itself in both the style and the language of many great works of modern fiction. As Alter demonstrates, the ancient languages of biblical thinkers have seeped into the imaginations of American authors in ways both deliberate and subconscious, subtle and pronounced, so that writers have hardly been able to escape the tradition which they once loathed or loved or regarded as irrelevant. In short, they have revived precisely that text which many of them disclaimed as passé.

Latest on UNESCO and Palestine


The Toronto Star has an analysis of recent developments with attention to archaeology:
UNESCO membership deepens Mideast cultural war fought with picks and shovels

Published On Sat Nov 05 2011

By Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter

The Palestinians’ struggle for United Nations membership seems set to go nowhere, as the UN Security Council prepares to table a report Tuesday that is expected to show little more than confusion on the members’ stance.

But their pre-emptive strike — a successful bid to join the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organization — has touched off an explosion of political reaction across the world.

Viewed as a bold leap toward statehood by some — and a covert tiptoe to recognition by others — it sparked instant de-funding of UNESCO by the United States Congress and Israel, an Israeli freeze on $100 million in transfer payments to the Palestinians and a threat, later reversed, to pull Canada’s $10 million annual contribution from the Paris-based UN body.

But the UNESCO membership also bares the heart of Israelis’ and Palestinians’ existential hopes and fears, and deepens the cultural war that surrounds their heritage in the small territory they have shared for millennia. It’s a war that is being fought not just with words, but with picks and shovels in the hundreds of historical sites across the region.

The Jerusalem Post reports a new development:
PA to sue Israel for ‘destroying’ Arab, Muslim antiquities

11/05/2011 17:50

As member of int'l organization, PA will take Israel to court for changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in J'lem.

Following its admission to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority is planning to pursue Israel legally in international forums for allegedly stealing Palestinian antiquities and changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said over the weekend.

“Now that we have joined UNESCO, we will take Israel to court for systematically destroying and forging Arab and Islamic culture in Jerusalem,” said Hatem Abdel Qader, former PA minister for Jerusalem affairs. “We are also seeking to file lawsuits against Israel in international courts and bodies for stealing Arab and Islamic antiquities and assaulting Islamic and Christian holy sites.”

And the Egyptian Gazette has an opinion piece by Idris Tawfiq:
Opinion: Preserving Palestine’s heritage

By Idris Tawfiq - The Egyptian Gazette
Saturday, November 5, 2011 01:42:39 PM

It was only to be expected that the state of Israel would try to ruin any attempt to celebrate Jerusalem as Capital of Arab Culture back in 2009. How could it be otherwise, with the Zionists telling the world that Jerusalem has been their capital for the last three thousand years and that it will be the eternal capital of Israel?

If the existing Judaisation of Jerusalem carries on at its present rate there will be little left of Jerusalem as a capital of Arab culture for anyone to celebrate. Systematically, the Arab nature of the city is being uprooted and destroyed, whether it be monuments going back to the Middle Ages and before, or to modern dwellings where the Arab citizens of Jerusalem live.

All of it is happening before the eyes of the world, but very little is being done to stop it. Although the very streets themselves shout that this is an Arab city so much of Jerusalem’s Arab past is being demolished or disguised. To get rid of it all, however, the Zionists would have to destroy the city itself!

At long last, though, something happened this last week that is of immense significance in the long process towards restoring peace and justice in Palestine. UNESCO has admitted Palestine as a full member. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. Its importance, though, has nothing whatsoever to do with the bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN.

There is considerable projection in the first two paragraphs, in that much Palestinian propaganda in recent years has been devoted to attempting to de-Judaize Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount. And I have to say that I have never encountered anyone who argued that Jerusalem did not have a considerable Arab past.

Speaking of the Temple Mount, this is the first of two pasages in the article that require additional comment:
For too long, those who have re-written history and airbrushed the Arab heritage of Palestine from its pages have managed to focus the eyes of the world away from the truth, fooling them into believing a version of history that is not true. In digging under the foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque for the last forty years to find their lost Temple, the Israeli archaeologists have not managed to find even a cup or a saucer to prove their claim!
This is obviously nonsense and Dr. Tawfiq, who is a former Catholic priest with a degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, should know enough about the history and archaeology of Jerusalem to know better. The Western Wall is part of the Herodian Temple Platform on which the Herodian Temple stood. And back in the nineteenth century two copies of a Greek inscription were excavated which warned gentiles to stay out of the Temple compound. I have collected other archaeological and literary evidence for the Jewish and Judean temples on the Temple Mount (as well as evidence for a Judean presence in Jerusalem in the Iron Age II) here and here. Regular readers will be aware of how much I harp on these themes, but I do so wearily, only in response to the continued stream of bogus propaganda about them.

On attempts by the Waqf to de-Judaize the Temple Mount through illicit excavations, and on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which has tried to undo a little of the damage, see the links in the second half of this post.

The second passage:
The tunnels being built under Al-Aqsa, to weaken its foundations and bring about its collapse, are presented to tourists as archeological excavations which they are invited to walk along and see.
This unsupported claim keeps being repeated too. I have addressed it here and here (and links at the end of the latter post). Foreign reporters have had ample opportunity to explore such tunnels as there are, and none go under the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (This is not to say that every tunnel being dug in the vicinity of the Temple Mount is necessarily a good idea.)

Some past posts on tunnels and caves in Jerusalem are here, here, here, and here, with many links. I have been following these stories for years.

Background to the UNESCO story is here with links. Cross-file under "Temple Mount Watch" and "Jewish-Temple denial."