Thursday, May 13, 2010

Temple Mount denial and Terrible Ice

Archaeologist: Stop Muslim Temple Mount Denial, 'Barbaric' Digs

by Hillel Fendel (Arutz Sheva)

Dr. Gabi Barkai, senior lecturer at Bar Ilan University and recipient of the Jerusalem Prize for Archaeology, says Israelis must demand that Israeli antiquities law be enforced at Israel's most important archaeological site– the Temple Mount.

"It is the most important site in the world for the Jewish people," Barkai told Benny Tucker of Arutz Sheva's Hebrew newsmagazine in a Jerusalem Day interview, "as well as the most important archaeological site in Israel, and despite all this, Israel has abandoned it. Over the past ten years, the Waqf has taken control, making major changes in the status quo: It has conducted illegal digs, built mosques and the like, and the situation has changed from one extreme to the other."

For years I have been covering the issue of pervasive Jewish-Temple denial in the Arab Muslim world, the underlying ideology of the Waqf's actions. For recent discussions see here and here.

Also, an aside: in relation to the Temple Mount-debris sifting project, Dr. Barkai mentions something I didn't know about:
Asked later to elaborate, he told Israel National News, "For instance, we have found many small floor tiles, of different colors, which confirm the Talmud's description of the floor of the Second Temple as being reminiscent of the ocean."
That reminds me of a mystical tradition in the Hekhalot literature about this sixth heavenly palace (which would have been roughly equivalent to the nave of the Temple, leading into the seventh palace, the Holy of Holies and throne room of God). I quote from my own translation:
The sixth palace appears as though someone splashes a hundred thousand thousands and myriads of myriads of waves of the sea onto him. But there is not really even one drop of water on him; rather it is the splendorous atmosphere of the pure alabaster stones that are paved in the palace, which is a splendor more fearsome than water. And do not the attending (angels) stand opposite him? And if he [the ascending mystic] says, "What is the nature of these waters?" at once they run after him and say to him, "Fool! From now on you shall not have a vision with your eyes! Perhaps you are of the seed of those who kissed the calf, and you are unfit to see the King in His beauty!" If so, a heavenly voice goes forth from the seventh palace, and the herald goes before him and blows a sustained, a quavering, and a sustained blast on the horn, saying to them, "You have spoken well. Indeed he is of the seed of those who kissed the calf, and he is unfit to see the King in His beauty." He does not depart from there until they have wounded his head with iron axes. (Hekhalot Zutarti §408)
The "alabaster stones" seem to be Ezekiel's "terrible ice" (Ezekiel 1:22, MT), which represent the waters of chaos frozen by God at the time of the cosmogonic battle with the Great Sea. Naturally, the angels don't like the idea that the ice might be melting.

Does anyone know the Talmud reference Dr. Barkay alludes to?

UPDATE: Reader Chaim Katz e-mails the suggestion b. Sukkah 51b, although it seems to refer to the marble of which the whole building was made rather than the floor tiles. But the idea of the resemblance to the waves of the sea is there.