Aside from violent uproars, what else is happening at the Temple Mount excavations? The research of Professor Joseph Patrich from the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology suggests that evidence, which until now had been ignored, points to the exact location of the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount.
Up to now, the exact location of the Temple has been a matter of conjecture. According to the findings, a large cistern of water located under the upper platform of the Temple Mount, near the southeastern corner, points to the exact location of the altar and sanctuary.
According to the research’s findings, the rock upon which the Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century is outside the confines of the Holy Temple. The rock is considered by Jews to be the place where the Binding of Isaac occurred. Muslims consider it to be the place from which Mohammed ascended to the Heavens.
Professor Joseph Patrich bases his findings on a study that was done in 1866 by the British engineer Sir Charles Wilson for the Palestine Exploration Fund, in which he mapped all the water cisterns in the Muslim compound (Haram Al-Sharif), including the cistern under discussion- cistern no. 5. According to Patrich, “Until now no one has ever thought that the location of the cistern on the Temple Mount and its unique shape were derived from the shape and location of the altar and sanctuary”.
“We are talking about a cistern that is 15 meters deep, with remarkable carving and with an extraordinarily unusual shape. Its passageway is 4.5 meters wide and 54 meters long with shorter branches extending south and north”, explains Professor Patrich.
Examining the location and the unusual shape of the cistern and studying the description in the Mishna led Professor Patrich to the conclusion that the cistern in question is the cistern from which water was drawn daily for the basin in the sanctuary, during the daily ritual ceremony that occurred before dawn.
During this ceremony, the priests officiating in the sanctuary were required to wash their hands and feet with water from the basin, before going up to the altar. Water from the previous day that was left in the basin overnight was invalid for this purpose. Every day, fresh water from the cistern was required for this ritual. According to the Mishna, a sophisticated mechanical waterwheel drew the water. The shape of the cistern allows for the mechanism of a waterwheel.
According to Professor Patrich, this evidence allows one to pinpoint the exact location of the laver that the priests used in their daily ritual, and the altar ramp that was next to it.
The exact location of these in relation to the cistern under discussion, allows for the first time to locate the Holy Temple itself with its gates and chambers, in accordance with what is written in the Mishna. The conclusion from the research places the sanctuary more east than was previously thought, and at a southern angle, not perpendicular to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, which was the common opinion. This location leaves the Muslim Dome out of the confines of the Holy Temple.
The conclusions of this study reconcile the contradictions between the Mishnaic text (Midot 5, 3-4) and the Babylonian text (Yoma, 19a) regarding the northern and southern chambers. The study posits that the Mishnaic text is the correct one, in contradiction to many commentators, first and foremost Maimonides. In light of this, a revised plan can be drawn up of the Azarah- the courtyard around the sanctuary- with its gates and chambers. Many commentators and researchers have also deliberated this matter.
Professor Patrich stresses that his research on the location of the sanctuary on the Temple Mount is purely academic, and should not be dealt with in a political context.