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Historical evidence does not support Zionist claims re the Western Wall

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The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority has recently (Times of Israel  Oct. 20) compared UNESCO unflatteringly ‘to Islamic State jihadists’, for its October 13 resolution calling into question ‘the link between Judaism and the Western Wall’ (as Haaretz put it): the view that the Wall is a surviving feature of the pre-70 CE Temple Mount.

However the IAA’s own view, formed in reaction to new evidence, itself deserves to be questioned.


It is generally agreed that Herod the Great, King of the Jews, began work on the Temple in or near 20 BCE.  According to a statement ‘Building the Western Wall’ published by the IAA through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 23, 2011, ‘every guide and every student grounded in history’, when asked ‘who built the Temple Mount walls?’ will ‘immediately reply ‘Herod”.  However, there should now, the IAA continues, be a new reply in the light of archaeology. The New Reply runs, ‘the work was completed in the reign of Herod’s great grandson Agrippa II’ – i.e. in or around 62 CE, when the chain of events that would lead to the destruction of the Temple in 70 was just starting.

The IAA firmly invokes Josephus’ authority for its favoured date, using – misusing, I think – a passage from his Antiquities Book 20, never hinting that he says other things by which the Old Reply, Herod built the Western Wall, might have been encouraged.  This misuse was once favoured, as I’ll note later, by Christians arguing against Jews.

A coin found under the Western Wall in a cistern, and dated to Valerius Gratus, after Herod's rule. From the Israel Antiquities Authority

A coin found under the Western Wall in a cistern, and dated to Valerius Gratus, after Herod’s rule. From the Israel Antiquities Authority

The reason the Israel Antiquities Authority came up with the New Reply was the discovery in 2011 (described in the same IAA document) in a cistern space under the Wall of four coins, the latest dated to around 17 CE, in the governorship of Valerius Gratus, twenty years after Herod’s death. ‘This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls… was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime,’ the IAA concedes.


For present, limited purposes I’ll assume that ‘Josephus represents reality’ (Lawrence Schiffman, Descriptions of the Temple in Josephus and the Temple Scroll, 1999; in context less emphatic) on Temple-related matters. Josephus main works are Wars of the Jews (78 CE) – ‘W’ and Antiquities of the Jews (93) – ‘A’.

Josephus, bust made by Romans

Josephus, bust made by Romans

Two passages, Josephus A 20:219, now favoured by the IAA, and John 2:20, long favoured by Christian tradition, refer to certain finishing points in the history of the Temple, one in the mentioned Year 62, one rather earlier, in the Year 26. These texts are much misused by being rehearsed without asking what exactly it was that got finished.  In each case it was, I’d argue, neither Herod’s original design nor any major addition to it, but only a programme of repairs.

BOOK 15 and YEAR 12

Book 15 of Antiquities concludes with a long celebration of the Temple and of Herod’s role.  Paragraphs 420 and 421 are the most important.  We learn that the Naos, the inner or true Temple, was completed in eighteen months, ie in the Year 18 BCE.  Josephus does not use the term ‘Temple Mount buildings’ but he does refer to the Periboloi, surrounds, or exo Periboloi, outer surrounds, of the Temple, which must include any outer wall, there being no hint of further Temple-related structures ‘beyond the surrounds’.  He is completely clear (A 15:420) that these surrounding structures were completed by Herod in eight years, i.e. probably by the Year 12.

From the next para. (421) we learn that there was a mighty ‘work finished!’ celebration either in 18 or in 12 – I think Josephus means 18, but there’s some obscurity.  If it was in 18, i.e. for the Naos alone, there was never any celebration – nothing such is mentioned in any source – of the completion of the less sacred ‘surrounds’.  Indeed in 12, Herod was involved in a very different celebration at Olympia, where he was, says Josephus (W 1:427), Agonothete, or ‘President of the IOC’ we might say.  (Here Josephus gains some credence from Athenian inscriptions praising Herod’s munificence.) In any event, what Book 15 so clearly says clearly contradicts what Book 20 is made to say, that the Temple was not completed for eighty years.  In fact there were two main repair programmes, of which the first was caused by ravages in 4 BCE and was completed by 26, the date suggested by John’s Gospel. The second, arising after 54, was caused by subsidence problems, which were never really to be solved.  It was finished only in the sense of being suspended and never resumed.


In 4 BCE there was insurrection, repression and plunder following Herod’s death (W 2:47-54, A 18:255-294). Roman and Herodian troops were gathered in the royal residence area, somewhat to the southwest of the Temple.  From the Phasael Tower Sabinus, their rapacious and cowardly leader, ordered an attack.  ‘Showing more confidence in him than he deserved they found the courage to break out’.  After a fierce battle the insurrectionists, themselves very courageous, took up high positions in the Temple, making Roman archery from below ineffective.  The Romans ‘surged into the Temple’, only to be pinned down by arrow volleys from portico roofs.  At length a daring squad made a rush for the shelter of the portico itself where they started a fire which took hold on the wooden fitments and brought the structure crashing down, causing extensive damage and annihilating the opposition.  As the fire abated the Romans made their way to the Treasury, which they ransacked.  This outrage provoked further resistance, which ended only when Roman reinforcements arrived and negotiations began to seem like a good idea to both sides.  Sabinus departed for the coast, doubtless with a well-laden cart.  This episode must have necessitated repairs, and the nature and extent of these repairs call for some thought.  They would surely, what with a denuded treasury and no dynamic Herod to drive things on, have been quite prolonged.


Seeing that the Temple needed prolonged repairs we should consider the idea that the Wall too, massive though it is and not easy to damage, needed some repairs, which were duly carried out in 17 CE under Valerius Gratus and that the coins indicate nothing more dramatic than ‘mere repair’.  I have some sympathy with this idea but on balance think it unconvincing. The only known event that could have damaged any massive feature of Temple architecture is the Sabinus Incident, the Battle of the Portico.  Yet it is clear that Sabinus’ forces, starting from outside the Temple – maybe using a wide staircase – did not have to overcome or even to scale any sheer wall.  The fire they started did not blow back on them or on the area over which they had ‘surged’ and did not engulf the whole edifice.  It abated so that they could break into the Treasury.


Though I’m working on the IAA’s own idea that on these matters Josephus is to be trusted, this is the moment to mention the possibility that Josephus was just mildly overstating: that Herod left the Temple project essentially complete, but with just minor gaps to be filled in.  On that showing, the discovery of the coins is merely the discovery of one of those gaps: the coins do not reveal a repair to existing work but a minor addition, c. 17 CE, of a small, new, gap-filling section.  Again, I think the suggestion unconvincing: a gap making a difference to the defensibility of the whole would have been more than a minor thing.  Moreover, the last thing that the Romans would have conceded happily, with the Battle of the Portico burned into their memories, was completion of a really strong, highly formidable wall.


However, the Temple did return to fine shape.  This is the general witness of the New Testament for Jesus adult lifetime, the 20s and early 30s CE. ‘What manner of buildings!’ (Mark 13:1) Pontius Pilate (plausibly!) took over from Valerius Gratus (W 2:175-177, A 18:255-294) in 26. He soon insisted on the secularisation of some Temple funds to build an aqueduct for the city.  He must have been able to argue that it was ridiculous to reserve these funds for sacred – ‘Corban’ says Josephus, a gift or offering consecrated to God (W 2:175)  – rather than for highly necessary civic use.  He could scarcely have done this if the post-Sabinus repairs had not been reasonably complete by that point.  There was indeed a protest against his decision and lethal police brutality was used.  But the protests of 26, by contrast with those of 4 BCE when Sabinus’ activities had provoked further resistance, fizzled quite promptly. This was perhaps because the aqueduct was being well used, perhaps because there was nothing about the Temple that was obviously unfinished, so that we have no indication of new features there even after funds had reverted permanently to Temple control. John’s ‘forty-six years was this Temple in building’ fits the interval 20 BCE to 26 CE like a glove.  If we consider this good fit along with the absence of any record of celebrations in or near 26 we may conclude that the moment to which John refers is the finishing of Temple repairs marked by Pilate’s secularisation of funds, not the triumphant completion of the original, now decades-old plan.  So far the Antiquities 15 date of 12 BCE for completion of the whole complex need not be questioned.


‘In the time of Nero’, Josephus reports (A 15:391), the inner Temple began to suffer subsidence.  Nero began to reign in 54. The collapse of the Temple under natural forces might have been a greater disaster and indication of God’s displeasure even than destruction by enemies. An attempted repair that failed or made things worse would have brought calamity on the one responsible.  Such must have been the fears of King Agrippa.  The decision was made to underpin the structure: vast amounts of timber and a huge workforce were assembled.  But the decision was never carried out – or carried out only partially and gingerly.  The timber – or much of it – was to lie around until after the outbreak of war in 66 when the revolutionary leader John of Gischala, Josephus’ bugbear, decided to use it to make barricades against rival factions (W 5:36).  Agrippa a decade earlier had grown more and more wary of the technology of underpinning, in the end refusing to use it even experimentally on an outer building (A 20: 219). Meanwhile funds were accumulating and the people who used the Temple as a bank were becoming restive, seemingly fearing another secularisation of funds on Pilate’s model which would this time lead to a demand that they pay allegedly overdue taxes.  The Romans were taking the view that Corban, the sacralisation of money, was an unethical tax dodge.  The last Governor, Gessius Florus, was to take this view so aggressively that war would break out. After the war Mark, the Roman Christian, was to join with those who regarded Corban (7:11) as selfish and hypocritical.


The King’s decision in all the circumstances was to secularise a lot of the money himself, by accepting a proposal to replace all the pavements of the city’s streets with ‘white stone’, perhaps marble, a massive job for his massive band of workers.  At least no one could say that the money was idling.  At the same time there was a judgement over liturgy which Josephus records in doom-laden tones.  He then writes the few words, only seven in Greek, ‘already by this time the Temple too had been finished’ (A 20:219 again) to which so much importance has been attached by the IAA and others. This terse remark, downbeat rather than tragic, surely does not record the completion after eighty years of Herod’s plan or of some even grander plan conceived later.  It records only the finish of – the rather disappointing failure to follow through on –  a programme of repairs.  Josephus proceeds quickly to tell us of the need to protect investors and of the ‘white stone’ project.  Once again there is no reason, in the light of this record in Antiquities 20 of a repair programme suspended in awkward circumstances, to consider the firm statement of Antiquities 15, that the Temple was completed after eight years, to have been contradicted.


‘It is noteworthy’ says Joseph Soloveitchik (Kinos Mesoras HaRav p.370) ‘that the Western Wall is not referred to at all in the Babylonian…or Jerusalem Talmud’.  However, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, bolder than the IAA, claims through its ‘goisrael’ website that from a very early stage the Wall was recognised as a surviving part of the Temple complex.  Its authority is certain Midrashjc passages, notably from the Exodus Rabbah 2:2, a commentary certainly written many centuries later than 70 – (Hauser and Watson HIstory of Biblical Interpretation 2009 Vol.2, p.133.)  There we find a mention, alluding to Song of Songs 2:9, of a surviving western wall where God glimpses us ‘through the lattice’, as the lover in the Song does. However, it has been recognised, even among those who have no quarrel with claims that the Wall belongs to the Temple Mount, that this – like other comparable Midrashic references – concerns a very different matter, the walls of the Temple itself: so there is no real support here for the Ministry’s claims.  Moreover, a sheer, massive wall is not very like a lattice.  Perhaps a lattice-like structure had been visible within the Wall for some time in the medieval period but was lost by the time of Maimonides’ visit, perhaps in 1165 – (Davidson Moses Maimonides 2005, p. 29). Maimonides, recording his visit, makes no claim for any structure visible at that time, as a surviving element of either Temple or Temple Mount, which he surely would have done if there was any consensus within the medieval Jewish world behind the Exodus Rabbah’s remarks.


In 1681 Chizzuk Emunah, a defence of Judaism and critique of Christianity, finally made it into print – in a Christian series called ‘The Fiery Darts of Satan’ – nearly a century after the death of its author, the Lithuanian Karaite Isaac of Troki. He is cited by the Baptist John Gill (Exposition of the Entire Bible 1746 and later years) as using Antiquities 15 to declare John 2:20 to be in ‘palpable error’ – a high view of Book 15 which must have lived on to encourage the tour guides’ ‘Old Reply’, attributing everything to Herod.  Gill for his part seems to have felt a palpable hit inflicted by ‘the Jew’.  His response helped set the tone among Christian scholars whereby the long statement of Book 15 is somewhat devalued and the terse seven words of Book 20 made to say more than they really do. I certainly cannot say that the IAA is alone, though I still say that it is mistaken.


From the statements a) that the Temple complex was, as per A15:420, finished – completed according to plan, outer surrounds and all, with no significant gaps or omissions  – in 12 BCE, b) that after that and before the destruction of 70 there were no major new features added or even planned and c) that the coins show that the Wall was not a completed feature of the outer surrounds even by 17 CE it follows inevitably that none of the Wall was ever part of the Temple complex and that one of the historical claims characteristic of Zionism is rather starkly false.  These three statements are all supported by evidence but I accept that none is conclusively proved, so that the problem of the origin of the Wall remains a complex and difficult one.  (I haven’t considered the arguments of those who believe that the whole Temple was located elsewhere.)

I argue that the attempt to dismiss the problem IAA-style by curt reference to those few words in Antiquities 20, with no attempt even to mention the crucial paragraphs of Antiquities 15, the Book where Josephus really focuses on the Temple, is inadequate, disappointing and misleading.  I could wish that Israel would demonise Unesco rather less and that ‘every guide would reply’ that the status and origin of the Wall are quite problematic.  They won’t, though.

Most dates mentioned are disputable within a year or two, but I think only to a degree that does not affect the argument.  Available recent books on Jerusalem seem to have been published too soon to deal with the late 2011 publicity about the coins.  Josephus is available in the Loeb Library edition and in the classic William Whiston translation.  The new Brill edition is incomplete, but covers the Sabinus Incident. I have consulted Bill Heroman’s very valuable NT/History blog, also Ritmeyer Atchaeological Design, esp. for the ‘mere repair theory’ and Gil Student’s Torah Musings for Exodus Rabbah and the remarks of Rabbi Soloveitchik.  For assessments of Josephus and other matters, see Helen Bond, ‘Pilate in History and Interpretation’ (2004), Martin Goodman ‘Rome and Jerusalem’ (2007) and Steve Mason, ‘A History of the Jewish War’ (2016).

Martin Hughes

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82 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan on December 19, 2016, 1:16 pm

    Zionism is only ever loosely fashioned on historical fact. What counts is its need to be relevant.

  2. mcohen. on December 19, 2016, 7:13 pm

    Ah so ah so

    if only those ancient walls could speak……mr h

    They say it is written in the kumylabat that the silk road reached all the way to Jerusalem,that the emperor himself appeared on a winged lion to bless the cornerstones of the imperial tea house on the mount.

  3. JWalters on December 19, 2016, 9:03 pm

    Here’s more on Israeli efforts to prove with archeology the Torah’s claim of God’s land grant to the Jews.

  4. RoHa on December 19, 2016, 11:05 pm

    I’m just going to link to an earlier comment.

  5. Qualtrough on December 19, 2016, 11:41 pm

    Whether the claim is true or not still doesn’t give anyone the right to conduct an ethnic cleansing campaign 2000+ years later.

  6. zaid on December 20, 2016, 1:11 am

    AlAqsa compound is 144 Dunams and Both Josephus and the Talmud stated that temple mount was only 36 Dunams .

  7. Citizen on December 20, 2016, 1:36 am

    Hasbara bots on Twitter quite often use Israeli archeology claims to support their stance. I recall another group of ethnic-striving people who strove to do so too:

  8. YoniFalic on December 20, 2016, 3:05 am

    Even if the Wall really is part of the Temple complex, it is part of cultural product of the Greco-Roman Judean ancestors of Palestinians and not of the ancestors of medieval Jewish communities, who all descend from non-Judean converts.

    Modern ethnic “Jews” have no legitimate claim whatsoever to the Judaic or non-Judaic cultural product of Palestine. The white racist genocidal European fake “Jewish” invaders are purely thieves of cultural product in Palestine.

    Judean Temple Judaism was completely shattered after the defeat of Bar Kochba. Judah haNasi made strong effort to introduce Mesopotamian Judaism in Palestine and redacted the fake Oral Law in the Mishnah in order to compete with nascent Christianity, which was much more successful as a codex-based religion, but Mishnaic Judaism never put strong roots in Palestine, and gradually the vast majority of the Palestinian Judaic population converted to Christianity.

    Medieval Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism descend from Judaic currents among convert populations — mostly Mesopotamian but also Phoenician and Greek.

    So who are modern “Jews”?

    Genetic anthropology is nonsense. The Judaic population of the Greco-Roman time period was mostly of Phoenician, Greek, and Mesopotamian convert origin. Judeans were a minority. In the modern time period we can identify four ethnic groups that comprise most pre-secularization Jewish communities. These ethnic groups are Slavo-Turks, Syro-Mesopotamians, Ibero-Berbers, and S. Arabians.

    Except for S. Arabians, none of these are ethnic groups of the Roman imperial period.

    Ethnic groups vanish and reform all the time.

    Greeks and Phoenicians were primary mercantile populations of ancient world. Phoenicians were the primary slave traders.

    As they came to predominate Judaic religion, Judaism became a mercantile religion of vast trade networks during the Middle Ages. Rabbinic law makes the (now) Jewish communities a closed metapopulation. Thus the Slavo-Turk region goes from Alsace (Elsass) to the Ukraine. The Ibero-Berber region traverses from Netherlands to N. Africa, the Levant, and into Balkans. S. Arabians from Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, to India. The Syro Mesopotamian region from Syria to Mesopotamia to the Silk Road into China.

    At the borders the ethnic submetapopulation clusters linked to the greater Judaic metapopulation.

    To make the genetic anthropological argument of a single Jewish people of Judean origin, the racists would have to show time varying genetic anthropological maps over the entire genome. These maps would have to be set up rather like geological strata maps and would have to show the “Jewish” genome spreading out from Judea shortly after the Bar Kochba Rebellion.

    Anyone familiar with Greco-Roman history realizes very quickly that the notion of a single Jewish people with a legitimate claim to Palestine is errant white European racist nonsense meant to justify settler colonialism in the ME, theft of Palestine, and genocide of the native Palestinians, who actually descend from Greco-Roman Judeans.

    • YoniFalic on December 20, 2016, 9:59 pm

      I made the following comment on Israeli mayor: No Arabs in our pools because their ‘hygiene culture is not like ours’.

      Judean (as well as Samarian) Temple Judaism was a religion tremendously different from Mishnaic/Talmudic/Rabbinic Judaisms.

      Neither the New Testament, Josephus, nor Philo, who probably worshiped at the Judaic Temple in Leontopolis, ever mention Oral Torah in the Mishnaic sense. Mishnaic Judaic religion was almost certainly an import from Mesopotamian Judaic convert communities.

      Because Mishnaic/Talmudic Judaism never got much traction in Palestine, Judeans almost entirely converted to Christianity and then probably mostly to Islam, which is probably quite similar to popular Judaism of the time of Jesus.

      • YoniFalic on December 20, 2016, 10:09 pm

        To make it very clear, Christianity is a religion that originates in Palestine. Rabbinic Judaism is not.

  9. hophmi on December 20, 2016, 8:52 am

    Adopting the worst of Palestinian tendencies, I see.

    • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 11:48 am

      “Adopting the worst of Palestinian tendencies, I see.”

      It’s a good thing you don’t have any ‘Jewish tendencies’, “Hophmi”! Somebody might comment on your ‘Jewish tendencies’. The “worst of” Jewish “tendencies”

      Rest assured, it won’t be me, I really don’t see them in you.

      Of course, if there are 2 billion Jews, ‘ ‘Jewish tendencies’ become international norms, wouldn’t you say, “Hophmi”?

    • Talkback on December 22, 2016, 11:54 am

      hophmi: “Adopting the worst of Palestinian tendencies, I see.”

      Sure, hophmi. Just replace “Palestinian” with “Jewish” and we know whose tendencies you have adopted.

  10. CigarGod on December 20, 2016, 9:09 am

    It is nice to have so much information.
    But, no matter how much is dug up, there never will be found a work order or deed signed by God.

    I wish it was as easy to ignore these holy deed hunters as it is to walk past the apocalyptic lunatic on the street corner, but there is at least one on every corner.

  11. BenYehudah on December 20, 2016, 12:06 pm

    It would be helpful to know the author’s credentials and reputation when reading such a specialist piece. Apologies if he is well known as the world’s top expert on the period, but it’s not my subject and I’ve no idea. I wouldn’t refer anyone else to it on this basis.

    • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 1:53 pm

      “Apologies if he is well known as the world’s top expert on the period,”

      Okay, “Ben” you caught him out. He is actually the first runner-up in the “world’s top expert on the period” competition.

    • MHughes976 on December 20, 2016, 1:57 pm

      I do have degrees in classics, theology and philosophy, which I taught, but that does not make me much more than an interested amateur, I accept. I do claim to have read the relevant passages in Josephus carefully in the Greek language. This is a field where public, government-related bodies are making – I might say flinging around – statements which get picked up by journalists and become a sort of public orthodoxy. The phrase ‘press-conference archaeology’ has been used – the Palestinians attempt this as well, though not with the resources and panache of the Israelis. Moreover, many important and rather interesting incidents in the history of the Temple, about which so many ideologically loaded statements swirl, are little known even when they are relevant to public debate. So an amateur intervention with a narrow focus didn’t seem inappropriate on balance.
      I’ve worked on this for months. Even so, I’m slightly on edge. Someone may well be about to point out that I’ve seriously misunderstood something!
      I quite accept that you’ve little reason to refer others to my work unless you think it well argued – and you may find that difficult to assess. I did try to avoid the anger and contempt that sometimes appear with these topics.
      Perhaps I should have added that I think that the relationship between the Temple and the Antonia Fortress is not understood as yet.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 11:42 am

        I enjoyed the article very much,

      • DaBakr on December 22, 2016, 5:35 pm


        a reasonable response. your article is interesting but by no means conclusive. but then there is very little written on the subject(by experts or amateurs) that is absolutely conclusive. modern archeology is rife with disputes going all the way back to leaky and his ‘lucy’ methodology and further back still to the opening of tut’s tomb.
        so-again-nice article and as usual-the byline is whats questionable

      • MHughes976 on December 23, 2016, 12:01 pm

        Thanks, Mooser. Your words too, Dab, are maybe kinder than I have a right to expect! I don’t disagree with anything you say this time – I certainly didn’t claim to be conclusive. My original heading was ‘How every guide replies: the Westerrn Wall’ but I told Phil that he could use any heading or formatting that he thought fit. So, since I said that, the title is my responsibility. Direct ancient evidence for the status of the Wall is in fact quite thin – that should be acknowledged, I think. A full treatment would have to ask what plausible – you would probably say in exasperated tones ‘What remotely plausible?’ – alternative to the ‘Zionist’ theory could we find? To my mind there is room for quite a bit more discussion. I don’t agree that the IAA and its allies represent an island of scientific sense in an ocean of unescoid nonsense and craziness.
        When the coins first appeared I thought that it was probably just a matter of the Temple growing like a medieval cathedral. In the light of the literary evidence I no longer think, for what my thoughts are worth, that that is plausible.
        There are of course direct statements in our sources which say that every wall in and around the Temple was smashed. Or are there? Is that exactly what they mean, did they know, can we trust them? It’s not an easy matter.

  12. just on December 20, 2016, 1:02 pm

    “But, no matter how much is dug up, there never will be found a work order or deed signed by God.”

    Well said. Thank you, CG!

    • CigarGod on December 21, 2016, 10:07 am

      Thanks, just.
      I appreciate the serious work Martin Hughes does.
      The more is uncovered, the less the dark corners will be able to hold the imaginations of those who fear documentations.
      I also appreciate the value of the documented history Jews. But, I resist the idea that they have a greater right to the land because (in part) because their documentation is greater than the previous culture.
      That is the real reason I appreciate MHughes and those like him. I don’t have to agree with everything he says, but I do appreciate his serious and well-intentioned work.

      • MHughes976 on December 21, 2016, 10:40 am

        Thanks for kind words!

  13. mcohen. on December 20, 2016, 2:54 pm

    There is no disputing the Jewish monetary system.the coins mentioned in this article are proof enough that Judaism and Jerusalem are linked beyond doubt.everything else is history written by the can only speculate about what has been carried off and concealed by other religions to bolster there own claims.

    Jews were always denied rights to Jerusalem in one form or another.that has changed.Jerusalem is the capital of israel.until that right is recognised there will be no peace.

    • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 3:58 pm

      .“Jerusalem is the capital of israel.until that right is recognised there will be no peace.”

      And when you’ve got most of 2 billion Jews backing you up, when Zionism says there will be no peace, there will be no peace! For every Jew who falls in defense of Jerusalem, 100 will take his place!
      Prepare to give us Jerusalem, or go into Chapt. 13, world!

      • RoHa on December 20, 2016, 9:56 pm

        A mere 2 billion? Didn’t you notice I recently boosted the numbers up to 87 quadrillion?

      • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 10:20 pm

        “Didn’t you notice I recently boosted the numbers up to 87 quadrillion?”

        Well, you were using an absurd exaggeration to make a point at the time, which you did quite well as I remember.
        I prefer to stick with the facts.

      • rosross on December 20, 2016, 11:41 pm

        @ Mooser,

        Where do you get the figure of 2 billion Jews? The highest figure is 15 million worldwide and probably closer to 12 million with half in the US and half in UN mandated Israel and Occupied Palestine.

        There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world and 1 billion Hindus and 1.6 billion Muslims and Jews are a tiny minority in religious terms.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 11:44 am

        “Where do you get the figure of 2 billion Jews?”

        To be truthful, I simply rounded up from 1.8 billion. That way nobody can say I am minimizing or under-counting.

    • MHughes976 on December 20, 2016, 4:16 pm

      Judaism and Jerusalem have significant links – no one reasonably denies that broad statement, surely. Others have links too. It’s sometimes useful to think carefully about the details and the supporting (my predictive the text had made that ‘spurting’) evidence.

      • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 8:38 pm

        “Judaism and Jerusalem have significant links”

        You bet we do. We really, really screwed up there, and that’s where Judaism nearly destroyed itself, and came to a grinding halt religiously. I don’t know what on earth we want with the place. Recreate the wonderful days of Bar Kochba, the Maccabees, and as a special Disney-like tourist attraction, a real live stab-out at the Sicari Corral? Don’t forget the animal sacrifice, Mon., Wed., and Sunday afternoons. Bring your old or unwanted pets.

      • YoniFalic on December 20, 2016, 10:27 pm

        Rabbinic Judaism, which is a religion of Mesopotamian origin, has far less connection to Jerusalem and Judea than is commonly assumed.

        I wrote the following comment on The dark secret of Israel’s stolen babies.

        Zionism has little connection to Jewish religion except to justify depredations on non-Jews by slicing and dicing Judaic scripture.

        Zionism is just another expression of Central and East European ethnoracial politics.

        The obsession with Palestine is something new. Before Zionism E Euro Jews had little interest in Palestine, which was mostly a place were old people went to die and to which eccentrics were dispatched.

        There were a good number of Jerusalems among the world Jewish community: Vilna the Jerusalem of Lithuania (or North), Amsterdam the Jerusalem of the West, Saloniki la chica Jerusalem, Zakho the Jerusalem of Assyria, Sarajevo the Jerusalem of the Balkans, Carpentras the Jerusalem of Provence, Djerba the Jerusalem of N. Africa, etc. Palestinians unlike Jews loved and cared for Jerusalem, which hosted several import Islamic schools but no comparable Jewish schools (after 1127) until genocidal racist Zios began their invasion in the 19th century.

        The E Euro obsession with Palestine seems to begin after the Czarist government at Jewish request changed the official term for Jew from жид (Żyd), which had no obvious association with Palestine, to еврей (hebrajski), which was compatible with a sort of secular Hebraism.

        The Czarist government did not care about the ridiculous mythological associations of еврей but had no use for the Polish legal concept of religious estate (сословие). The name change seems to have fit with general Czarist policy.

      • rosross on December 20, 2016, 11:42 pm


        Just because religions have links with a place does not give them rights to it. The Christians founded Istanbul – Constantinople, so what?

        Many religions have links to the Middle East because it was a crossing point. When Hebrew tribes wandered around the place so did many others.

      • mcohen. on December 21, 2016, 5:39 am

        mhughes976 says…… others have links

        what concerns me is this constant attempt by israels enemies to deny judaisms link to jerusalem.a good example is unesco and the un resolutions that are constantly passed due to majority bloc voting regardless of the truth.ban ki moon has remarked on this lately.this kind of game leads to counter moves that divide.they simply keep the lies flowing and prevent compromise.because compromise is the grease that keeps the wheels turning.
        in a way a bankruptcy lawyer might be a good choice.they understand this concept down to the last penny.a good move by trump in my opinion.

      • oldgeezer on December 21, 2016, 9:59 am


        No one denies Judaisms links to the region and specific points of interest. Particularly the UNESCO resolutions did not deny these links despite the zionist perversion of the truth.

        The problem is because some feel that these links grant them rights and privileges over others and the rights of others.

        They do not.

        There will be no peace until zionists drop their demands to have priority rights over others. Supremacist views are repugnant mo matter who holds them.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 11:47 am

        “in a way a bankruptcy lawyer might be a good choice”

        ROTFLMSJAO!! “mcohen” when a religion goes bankrupt, there is no secured debt. Don’t waste your money on a lawyer. Donations are not returnable.

      • eljay on December 22, 2016, 7:25 am

        || mcohen.: … what concerns me is this constant attempt by israels enemies to deny judaisms link to jerusalem. … ||

        Judaism has a link to Jerusalem. Zionists intentionally and fraudulently extrapolate from this link a “right”…
        – of people with the religion-based identity of “Jewish”; and/or
        – of the religion-supremacist “Jewish State”
        …to occupy and colonize Jerusalem.

      • DaBakr on December 22, 2016, 5:46 pm

        considering the type of modern weaponry available to nations what exactly is ‘funny’ about your commentary. i suppose it is just playing to your own peanut gallery’s [..] fantasies that ‘evil zionist’ people couldnt possibly understand.

    • eljay on December 20, 2016, 5:22 pm

      || mcohen.: … Jerusalem is the capital of israel.until that right is recognised there will be no peace. ||

      There is no “right” to recognize. Jerusalem is a Free City currently under military occupation and colonization by the “Jewish State” of Israel. Jerusalem does not belong to Israel or to Jews.

      • Mooser on December 20, 2016, 8:31 pm

        “Jerusalem does not belong to Israel or to Jews.”

        “eljay”, if 2 billion Jews, almost all of whom support Zionism, say they want Jerusalem, they will get Jerusalem!! How could the world possibly resist the combined might of almost all of 2 billion Jews? For God’s sake, “eljay”, don’t piss “mcohen” off!

      • MHughes976 on December 21, 2016, 7:26 am

        Quite so, ros. There are at least 3 levels to the discussion: the general claim to a Jewish link with Jerusalem, the specific claim about the Wall and the inference to current Israeli rights from these claims about the past. I think that the first is obviously true, though rather broad and unspecific. Israeli rhetoricians lash themselves into a rage if the second or third claims are denied, saying that the first claim (which is in fact generally accepted) is being questioned.
        The second claim may be true. My purpose was to say that there are difficulties with it that deserve consideration and that the IAA way with some of these difficulties is rash.
        The third claim is the one you make a point of denying, quite rightly.

      • MHughes976 on December 21, 2016, 10:56 am

        Well, mc, I keep on saying that there are significant Judaism to Jerusalem links – I’m concerned that other links to other groups should not be ignored or deemed completely insignificant.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 11:49 am

        Let’s return to the scene of our greatest failure! Whoopee! If anybody wants me, I’ll be over at Kocba’s bar, up to my neck in cuba libres.

      • annie on December 22, 2016, 4:52 am

        what concerns me is this constant attempt by israels enemies to deny judaisms link to jerusalem

        i can’t recall ever hearing this argument denying a jewish “link” to jerusalem, much less constantly so. not mentioning a link to something — anything — is not, in and of itself, evidence of said denial. the response to unesco was somewhat of a strawman as i read it, because it was criticized on the basis of something that didn’t happen — per se, although i can see how it could have been inferred by a snubbed listener. the hasbarists (including hasbrat chief netayahu) should have stuck to what was stated, vs what was not.

      • DaBakr on December 22, 2016, 5:56 pm


        of course others have long standing links to jerusalem. even if one wants to count the three abrahamic faiths as complete myths they still recognize the unique jewish connection to the city and its temple.
        And while the very early christians were simply either an orthodox-or-radical off-shoot of judaism(depending on which gospel) and the temple remained a central point in jesus’s story the arab conquest and with it the coming of islam tacitly accepted the importance of the mount by buiding their own temple upon the ruined 2nd temple but there is no connection to the city in the holy islamic quran.
        while that does not erase the centuries old connection of muslims and colonial arabs to jerusalem it definitely puts the perspective of religious and spiritual significance into a certain light.
        I have heard explanations by fiery muslim commenters that ‘jerusalem’ is mentioned in the quran but just by other names. this seems a bit specious. but-as you stated-links to this city are bound up in much more then just pure spiritual/religious connections. they are political, colonial, religious, historical and so on.

      • Mooser on December 22, 2016, 6:57 pm

        “i can’t recall ever hearing this argument denying a jewish “link” to jerusalem”

        Lately I’ve been reading about that period. I can’t figure out we want to remind anybody of it, let alone celebrate it. The actions of the ‘Jewish leaders’ nearly got us extincted at the time. YMMV (Your Mishegos May Vary) of course.

      • RoHa on December 22, 2016, 8:41 pm

        ” the three abrahamic faiths”

        Four, at least.

        ” the unique jewish connection to the city and its temple.”

        Of course “unique” means “the only one of its kind*”, but the fact that the Jewish connection is unique does other groups from having a unique connection. And the Christian connection is also unique. It is a different sort of connection from the Jewish connection. The Islamic connection is different again. (I don’t know about the Baha’i connection, if there is one.)

        So uniqueness is not, in itself, sufficient to give Jews any special rights to Jerusalem.

        (* “Very unique” make about as much sense as “very twelve”.)

    • rosross on December 20, 2016, 6:20 pm

      @ Cohen,

      Cities do not belong to religions. Jerusalem is not the capital of UN mandated Israel and in fact the mandate determined it should be an international city.

      Religions don’t get land rights, homelands or cities.

      This issue is not about peace, which, by the way, Israel could have tomorrow by ending the occupation and doing what every other coloniser has done, create one state with equal rights for all where the indigenous Palestinians share with their European colonisers.

      This issue is about justice, pure and simple and it always was. Justice for the indigenous Palestinians, now numbering around six million, denied human rights and freedom.

      • mcohen. on December 21, 2016, 5:18 am

        rosross says……….cities do not belong to relegion

        vatican and mecca are not cities therefore they belong to relegion.

        mooser says ………don’t piss mcohen off

        enjoy you new years eve celebration mooser.see what i mean about your 2 billion jews reply.
        rosross has given it some thought.tragic.i will take your reply at face value as well.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 11:51 am

        “see what i mean about your 2 billion jews reply.”

        “mcohen”, you are at least 100 of those 2 billion Jews.

      • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 1:38 pm

        “.i will take your reply at face value as well.”

        Of course you should. If we all agree there are 2 billion Jews, it changes everything! Goodbye, minority religion status! Hello, to our place among the superpower empires of the world! We can simply take whatever we want, no justifications needed, thank you.

    • RoHa on December 20, 2016, 10:01 pm

      “Judaism and Jerusalem are linked beyond doubt.”

      So are Christianity and Jerusalem. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are deemed to have taken place there.

      Islam has a link with Jerusalem, too.

      Most important, though, is the link with the worship of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

  14. rosross on December 20, 2016, 6:18 pm

    Israel was founded on a lie; created on a bed of lies and stands now on a mountain of lies. One more makes little difference.

  15. Walker on December 21, 2016, 3:05 pm

    It may well be true that the Western Wall was never part of the Temple complex. I still sympathize with the many Jews who feel a strong attachment to it.

    It’s like the traditional Tibetan story about the trader whose aged mother keeps asking him to bring back a tooth of the Buddha from India for her. He keeps forgetting. Finally, on his way home he realizes that he has forgotten again so he takes a tooth from a dead dog lying by the side of the road. His mother is overjoyed with this relic, and deeply venerates it. Eventually it starts performing miracles.

    Our reality and the truth about history are not always the same. Zionists say that there never were Palestinians as a separate people. Nonetheless, they exist now.

    • amigo on December 21, 2016, 7:07 pm

      “It may well be true that the Western Wall was never part of the Temple complex. I still sympathize with the many Jews who feel a strong attachment to it. “Walker

      Is having one,s back to the wall the same as having an attachment to it.

    • gamal on December 21, 2016, 7:53 pm

      “Eventually it starts performing miracles.”

      i think you are embellishing it a bit, this is one of Sogyal Rinpoches’, he of the illustrious Lakar family, favourite little homilies, the tooth develops those little (miraculous) pearls indicating an authentic relic,

      the point of the story is the spiritually efficacy of devotion not theft

      The Israeli state has plundered vast property from the many awqaf in Palestine

      devotion to theft and oppression is unlikely to produce much spiritually useful energy quite the contrary oh but i see you made Palestinians disappear, like an old dog skeleton clever boy,

      “I still sympathize with the many Jews who feel a strong attachment to it.”

      perhaps box it and wrap it and put it under their tree, it is Christmas and they have been good,

      also when quoting a Rinpoche probably best not to express sympathy with “attachment”, you may have to reread “The Tibetan Book of living and Dying” where you can enjoy this and many other picaresques little tales

      • Walker on December 22, 2016, 12:48 pm

        gamal, the story of the Buddha’s tooth is an old one with many variations. It does have to do with the power of devotion, not the efficacy of theft, as you have noted. Whether this wall at which Jews have prayed for many generations was part of the temple complex or not has nothing to do with their devotion.

        It’s probably best for persons who, like like ourselves, are posting polemical arguments on a political site to be circumspect about offering advice on attachment.

      • gamal on December 22, 2016, 5:14 pm

        “It’s probably best for persons who, like like ourselves, are posting polemical arguments on a political site to be circumspect about offering advice on attachment”
        you couldn’t be more wrong, if you are going to quote the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas remember they allow no excuse for attachment , with the Tibetan so you can confirm.

        i teach this practise, “Circumspect” this is Vajrayana it’s blatant “circumspect”? let me tell you directly if you find attachment, this is not therapy, cut it with Manjushris’ flaming wisdom sword,

        If you are attached to this life, you are not a true spiritual practitioner.
        If you are attached to samsara, you do not have renunciation.
        If you are attached to your own self-interest, you have no bodhichitta.
        If there is grasping, you do not have the View.”
        ༈ ཚེ་འདི་ལ་ཞེན་ན་ཆོས་པ་མིན།

  16. jon s on December 21, 2016, 4:29 pm

    I would like to compliment MHughes , for a serious, well-researched, essay, rather rare on this blog. As a person with an interest in the Second Temple period, I note , with pleasure, that reading it has enhanced my knowledge of the sources. As is written: “I have learned from all my teachers”(Psalms 119:99).
    On the topic : the essay is largely textually-centered, without much reference to the archaeological evidence. I’m not a professional archaeologist, but I know a Herodian stone when I see one.
    I don’t think that “Zionist claims” are affected by the question of whether Herod completed his construction/renovation of the Temple Mount, or left unfinished business to his heirs. The title of the essay has little to do with the content.

    • Mooser on December 21, 2016, 5:26 pm

      “I’m not a professional archaeologist, but I know a Herodian stone when I see one.”

      Of course you do. Is there anything you don’t know, being an “Israeli history” teacher?

      • DaBakr on December 22, 2016, 6:14 pm


        more then you do as PW’s court jester

      • RoHa on December 22, 2016, 8:25 pm

        The court jester was officially classsed as being insane. Thus, he was permitted to tell the king uncomfortable truths without being punished, especially if he presented it as a joke.

    • oldgeezer on December 21, 2016, 7:07 pm

      @jon s

      First yonah wrt to the temple. Who needs science and expertise when you have faith and just know.

      I don’t anyone with knowledge of archeology will be scared of either of you. I would expect better of a teacher though. I feel sorry for the young minds you aren’t developing.

      • wondering jew on December 21, 2016, 9:16 pm

        oldgeezer- jon s and i are two different people. the name jon usually is short for jonathan, son of saul, best friend to david. the english version of yonah is jonah. he was swallowed by a whale. two different biblical personalities.

      • oldgeezer on December 21, 2016, 10:09 pm


        Two different people? No s#@% Sherlock.

        My reference to you was with respect to your ludicrous claim that and your friends can tell the temple site by merely visiting Jerusalem.

        Who needs archeologists when you two are around!

      • wondering jew on December 22, 2016, 1:02 am

        It was difficult for me to imagine that you were obnoxious enough to raise a topic from 4 weeks ago. To paraphrase menken, one would never go broke overestimating your obnoxiousness.

      • jon s on December 22, 2016, 3:28 am

        ” jonah he lived in a whale”- that’s the porgy and bess version.
        In the bible Jonah was swallowed by a fish.

      • eljay on December 22, 2016, 7:53 am

        || jon s: yonah, ” jonah he lived in a whale”- that’s the porgy and bess version. In the bible Jonah was swallowed by a fish. ||

        Jonah, Book of

        … Jonah himself is swallowed by a great fish, from inside of which he prays to YHWH, and after three days and nights in the fish’s belly he is spewed out on dry land …

        Three days and nights – alive and praying – in the belly of a great fish: That sounds a lot like “lived in a whale”.

      • oldgeezer on December 22, 2016, 10:15 am


        LOL. And no one would go broke overestimating your sense of victimhood. You said it, you own it. Boo Hoo.

      • wondering jew on December 22, 2016, 11:33 am

        Regarding Jonah and the fish or whale: television and comedy history reports that the smothers brothers comedy hour, satirical critic of the war , lbj and all things staid, was kicked off the air as a result of David steinberg’s Jonah routine which cited the biblical language which used the term fish and rejecting the whale interpretation proceeded to tell of Jonah being swallowed by a giant guppy. ( The content of steinberg’s routine was probably irrelevant, the fact that the script had not been submitted to censor/monitors was the cause of the show’s cancellation, in fact it was a retreat by cbs away from controversy. )

        I have spent literally hours on the walls of the old city of jerusalem near the rova, aka the Jewish quarter, looking straight at the temple mount, the mount of olives and the silwan neighborhood which I think has been suggested as the alternative place of the temple. Certainly the buildings tip me to consider this as preposterous, muslim conquerors built their mosques on holy sites to claim all holiness proprietary to Muhammad and his crew, so I have not looked at the temple mount bare of its eye attracting buildings. But the topography feels obvious to me that the imagined temple being built in silwan seems ridiculous. If you had spent years looking at the old city from different angles then I would listen to you, but mere belief in the authority of scientists does not deprive a person who has spent time in those spots of having an opinion based on the sense of sight. Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? to quote Chico marx.

      • Mooser on December 22, 2016, 6:52 pm

        “It was difficult for me to imagine that you were obnoxious enough to raise a topic from 4 weeks ago”

        So how many minutes are your statements ‘operative’ “Yonah”? Before Ziocaine Syndrome Amnesia Phase kicks in, that is.

        “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes”

        You made your cred, and you can lie in it.

    • MHughes976 on December 22, 2016, 1:11 pm

      Thanks for generous words, jon. I appreciate that.

      • jon s on December 25, 2016, 4:55 pm

        MHughes, you’re welcome.
        I don’t know whether you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit the site and see the topography and the archaeological discoveries with your own eyes. If you haven’t – I recommend that you do so. I would be happy to accompany you.

  17. Mooser on December 21, 2016, 7:58 pm

    “First yonah wrt to the temple. Who needs science and expertise when you have faith and just know.”

    It is antisemitic to contradict a Zionist. You are denying their faith!

    • Talkback on December 22, 2016, 12:07 pm

      It’s actually blasphemy to contradict them, if you think it through.

  18. benedict on December 22, 2016, 6:41 am

    I find it interesting that back in 2011 you didn’t think that the discovery of coins is “earth shattering”.
    The textual argument is rather flimsy, to say the least. Josephus was not a lawyer and you are over-analyzing his words. It’s clear that the building projects on temple Mt. area went on for decades. It is not even obvious that the coins indicate the building of a new part of the wall and not some local small fixing job.
    For the of a professional archeologist on the topic see Leen Ritmeyer’s excellent post here:

    • MHughes976 on December 22, 2016, 1:25 pm

      Well, yes, I’ve thinking about these things for some time. I used the words ‘neither earth-shattering nor insignificant’ about the coins, which I think was reasonably fair for a comment at an early stage. The problem of the Wall’s origin is very complex and the coin discovery added to the complexity. I deny that the problem can simply be swept aside by a few words from Josephus A 20. I did refer to Ritmeyer and to the ‘repair’ theory, saying I had some sympathy with it but also saw reasons for objecting to it. I’m not sure how significant it was that Josephus was not a lawyer. He considered himself a historian in the best Greek tradition and was a priest who knew the Temple in its glory days. My argument was that it’s the words of A 20 that have been both over-interpreted and read without attention to context, whereas the plain as a pikestaff words of A 15 have been undervalued or ignored. Are there are arguments against that?
      Of course if one ditched Josephus and accepted John the Valerius Gratus coins would pose no problem at all, be exactly what one would expect. There’d be other problems. The whole question is very problematic!

  19. mcohen. on December 23, 2016, 7:43 am

    quite interesting the contrast on posters views of the “wall”.my first connection was through a famous photo of israeli soldiers at the wall when it was captured, i think, in 1967.somehow this idea that jews had fought there way through jerusalem to cature the wailing wall has always stayed with me.the whole idea that judaism is part of this ongoing battle to maintain a presense and allow jews free access is a powerful goes beyond politics and un resolutions.

    • eljay on December 23, 2016, 8:10 am

      || mcohen.: … somehow this idea that jews had fought there way through jerusalem to cature the wailing wall has always stayed with me.the whole idea that judaism is part of this ongoing battle to maintain a presense and allow jews free access is a powerful emotion. … ||

      Tarting up decades’ worth – and counting – of oppression, colonialism, supremacism and (war) crimes might make the pig more appealing…but it still just a pig.

    • Talkback on December 23, 2016, 9:51 am

      mcohen: “the whole idea that judaism is part of this ongoing battle to maintain a presense and allow jews free access is a powerful emotion.”

      Yeah, certain Germans had the same powerful emotions while illegaly acquiring territory through war to allow them “free access”.

      “it goes beyond politics and un resolutions.”

      Yup, it’s called a war crime and has been one since 1945. Unfortunately you and your fellows are on the wrong side of history and humanity.

    • Mooser on December 23, 2016, 12:29 pm

      “quite interesting the contrast on posters views of the “wall”.my first connection was through a famous photo of israeli soldiers at the wall when it was captured”

      What a “connection”! A “famous photo”. This is so enlightening, I can just hear the sound of one hand thwapping.

      “the whole idea that judaism is part of this ongoing battle to maintain a presense and allow jews free access is a powerful goes beyond politics and un resolutions.”

      And with almost all of 2 billion Jews feeling the same way, the “un” hasn’t got a chance.

  20. Blake on January 10, 2017, 10:26 pm

    “The writing of Jewish history is a peculiar feature of Jewish modernity. Jewish historiography dates from the 1820s at the earliest and does not find institutionalized expression until the 1920s. Cecil Roth, the first professionally trained and employed Jewish historian in Britain, was appointed to a readership in Post-Biblical Hebrew studies at Oxford only in 1939. Since then, the study of Jewish history has burgeoned for curious reasons. Yosef Yerushalmi remarks “The modern effort to reconstruct the Jewish past begins at a time that witnesses a sharp break in the continuity of Jewish group memory. In this sense, if for no other, history becomes what it had never before – the faith of the fallen Jews.”” –
    “Social Memory, History, and British Jewish Identity” by David Cesarani

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