A Critique of Architect, Tuvia Sagiv’s Temple Mount Theory

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The red arrows in the picture below point to the boundary of the sanctified Temple Mount according to the viewpoint of the architect, Mr. Tuvia Sagiv, which he publicized in Techumin Vol. 28

Tuvia Sagiv’s Temple Mount


In my three internet articles explaining Caphtor’s Vapherach’s viewpoint concerning the location of the Temple on the Temple Mount, I demonstrated that Caphtor Vapherach actually agrees, the Temple Building was on the rock of the Dome of the Rock. You can press on the links to read the articles: Article 1 Article 2 Article 3

A misunderstanding of Caphtor Vapherach’s position has been the main reason why a minority of Rabbis support the Southern Theory regarding the location of the Temple on Mount Moriah.

However, one rabbi that I contacted still has difficulty, accepting my interpretation of Caphtor Vapherach and is waiting for an archaeological dig (or something more advanced) for verification. In any case below I present additional evidence against Tuvia Sagiv’s Temple Mount theory.


Additional evidence against the Southern Theory of the Location of the Temple on Mount Moriah proposed by architect Tuvia Sagiv

  • According to Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi (known by his book, Caphtor Vapherach), the Temple Mount was a square of 500 cubits by 500 cubits. The Temple Mount according to Tuvia Sagiv is not a square. In addition the length of Tuvia Sagiv’s cubit (44 cm.) is a smaller measurement, than what is commonly accepted.
  • Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi also agreed with Rambam’s commentary on the Mishna, explaining the concept of “The majority of the Temple Mount was from the south”. Nevertheless, in Techumin Volume 28, Sagiv argues with Rambam’s commentary on that Mishna, even though he brings Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi as proof for his own theory. In addition the Shushan Gate of Sagiv, seemingly is not aligned with the place of the production of the ashes of the Red Heifer, identified by Rabbi Ashturi Haparchi.
  • According to Josephus Flavius (the Jewish General that switched sides in the war that ended with the destruction of the 2nd Temple) the Temple Sanctuary (the Heichal) was on the highest point on Mount Moriah[1]. Therefore, when Sagiv cites Josephus[2] on the vantage point of King Agripas, when he observed the Temple service to “prove” that the highest point on the Mount Moriah[3] is not part of the sanctified area his claim should be rejected.



Someone who prays at the Kotel Hakatan, which is the continuation of the Wailing (“Western”) Wall and is aligned with the northern side of the upper platform of Mount Moriah, prays in a straight direction and not towards the south[4].

The lack of precision of some of those that pray by the Wailing (“Western”) Wall, where they don’t turn in a diagonal direction towards the place of the Temple, it appears should be judged in a favorable light, based on what is written in the Talmud, Baba Batra 25b, “he who wishes to gain wisdom, should direct oneself to the south, and he who wants to become rich, should direct oneself towards the north”.

One should not use the direction of those that pray at “the Kotel”, as a proof, for the southern theory, as suggested by Sagiv (who claimed the direction of the congregants at the southern end of the Wailing Wall is proof for his view).

Kotel Hakatan

A Northern Section of the Wailing Wall

Photo: Deror Avi


  • It is appropriate to point out that in the majority of synagogues that I have seen in Jerusalem, most of the congregants face the direction in which their chairs have been arranged and they don’t precisely pray in alignment to a particular place on the Temple Mount. For example, on the previous Simchat Torah holiday of this year, I happened to be in a synagogue that had a round shape and the chairs of the synagogue were arranged in V-shaped rows. It appeared to me that the majority of the congregants prayed in accordance to the direction that their chairs were arranged.
  • According to Sifra, Vayikra, parsha 5, end of chapter 6 point 8, the ramp of the altar was in the south, in contrast to the illustration of Tuvia Sagiv (that places the ramp in the north). One authority derives this rule from Vayikra / Leviticus 1:11 while Rabbi Yehuda says the rule can be deduced from Yechezkel / Ezekiel 43:17 and this too is the position of the Talmud in Zevachim 62b (that the altar ramp is located in the south of the altar).
  • Rabbeinu Chananel to the Talmud, Tractate Yoma 31a states: “Our rabbis taught 5 immersions and 10 ablutions (of hands and legs) etc. (were performed on Yom Kippur) and all of them were in the sanctified area on top of the Parva House; for it was stated, and he shall wash his flesh in water in a holy place and wear his clothing (Vayikra / Leviticus 16:24); except the first of the immersions that was above the Water Gate, that it to say there was a mikva, above the Water Gate and waters came there from the Spring of Eitam”. As the Talmud of the land of Israel (Yerushalmi) records the Gemara as stating: “Ben Katin made 12 spigots for the Laver (Kiyor). Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi stated, there was an aqueduct that brought water from the spring of Eitam etc.; and for this mikva too, were waters brought from the spring that was called the Spring of Eitam. Now the height of the gate was 20 cubits and the mikva structure was upon it 1 cubit by 1 cubit with a height of 3 cubits; it turns out that the Spring of Eitam is higher than the Temple Courtyard more than 23 cubits; in order to establish a slope where the waters would spill down from the spring of Eitam to descend upon the mikva above the Water Gate.

Tuvia Sagiv’s Assumption

Tuvia Sagiv assumed, that the water aqueduct that supplied water to the Mikva of the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) was the aqueduct, which is named the “Lower Aqueduct” (which is also called the Hasmonean Aqueduct). That is to say, an aqueduct from the Hasmonean period that brought water from springs that were nearby Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) all the way to the Temple Mount, namely, a distance of 23 kilometers, this aqueduct in reality is the aqueduct of the Spring of Eitam.

The “Lower Aqueduct” according to Sagiv’s viewpoint is suitable for the sea level height of the Sanctified Courtyard (the Azara) if you accept the Southern Temple Mount Location theory but it is not suitable to the height of the Sanctified Courtyard together with the addition of another 23 cubits for the mikva (discussed above) if you hold by the traditional (Central) location of the Temple Mount advocated by Radbaz and others.

One response to the assumption made by Sagiv about the “Lower Aqueduct” is that the aqueduct didn’t really exist during the First Temple, but only in the Second Temple period. According to the Talmud, tractate Zevachim 54b, the Spring of Eitam was on the border between the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin) and Yehuda (Judah), and if so we are not dealing with Sagiv’s aqueduct which brought water from springs near Beit Lechem (Bethlehem)  far away from the border between the tribes of Binyamin (Benjamin) and Yehuda (Judah). The spring of Eitam was a water source for the Temple already in the First Temple period (according to sources that I will bring later) which rules out Sagiv’s aqueduct, which is a strictly a product of the Second Temple.

Researchers identify the Spring of Eitam of the First Temple period with the Lifta Spring, which borders the neighborhood of Romeima in Jerusalem. And even though the Lifta Spring is lower (in Sea Level measurements) than the Temple Mount, I found on the internet that the neighborhood of Romeima is much higher than the Temple Mount. The ridge line (or some translate it the water shed line, Hebrew: קו פרשת המים) in that neighborhood is 826 meters above sea level. So apparently part of the area of Romeima was called the Spring of Eitam on account of the famous spring nearby[5]. And it is also possible that at the time of the Temple in addition to the Lifta Spring, there was another spring in the area of Romeima (that might have dried up afterwards) that was the source for the water that reached the Temple. Or alternatively they used a halachic leniency to bring up the water from a low area (Lifta) without invalidating the water. As an example, just to prove that it is theoretically possible to bring up the water from a lower point to a higher point without ruining it for the Temple service, see the response of Beit Yitzchak, table of contents to Yoreh Deah 2, where he suggests a way to use a pump to bring the water from a lower level to a higher level without invalidating the water; the author of Beit Yitzchak was forced there to explain, that Rashi must have believed, they didn’t have the pump technology at the time of the First Temple (but if they had known they would have used it). In the footnote below[6], I provide other (Hebrew) halachic sources to show halachic leniencies to bring up water from a lower area to a higher one without ruining it for ritual purposes.

But if we are going to take Rashi’s viewpoint at face value (that they didn’t use technological tricks to raise the water level) we will have to go back to the first answer, that at one point in time Romeima had an additional spring, other than Lifta that was lower than 826 meters above sea level but higher than 743 meters above sea level which is the summit of Mount Moriah according to Michlol Encyclopedia’s entry on the Temple Mount[7]. Elsewhere in that same article the summit of Mount Moriah is listed as 744 meters[8], but for our purposes this lack of precision has no impact on our issue; namely, there is indeed sufficient height for places in Romeima, for water to flow down from there by the force of gravity to the mikva above the Water Gate of the Temple. This fact removes the primary argument used by Tuvia Sagiv for the Southern Theory of the Temple’s Location.

  • Professor Daniel Michelson wrote: “In his new hypothesis, Sagiv raised the level of the sanctified courtyard to a level of 737.5 meters. Since this is the level of the Temple Mount today, one is forced to say that the bedrock upon which the ark stood and upon which the world was initiated (alt. translation, established) was uprooted more than six cubits (and even more than this, up to the bottom of the El Kas Fountain floor).

El Kas Fountain

But this suggestion does not solve the problem of the water aqueduct (sea level height). It is written in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Yoma, 19a, Chapter 3, Halacha 8, “Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi stated, there was an aqueduct that brought water from the spring of Eitam etc.; and the base (lit. legs) (holding up the mikva) in the south were wide open (with a hole) the size of pomegranates. Rabbi S. Bar Karsana said in the name of Rabbi Acha, the Sea (of Solomon) was a place for immersion of the Cohanim (see Divrei Hayamim / II Chronicles chapter 4 verses 2-6) and the Sea was for usage of the Cohanim for ritual washing. And this was not classified as a vessel (to invalidate the water) because the water flowed from the Eitam Spring and holes the size of pomegranates were placed in the base in the south (these factors removed the status of the Sea of Solomon as being a vessel for ritual purposes)”.

Sea of Solomon – According to Machon Hamikdash

And so too Rambam ruled in Hilchot Biat Hamikdash chapter 5, Halacha 15, “The Sea of Solomon (structure) was considered a mikva, because an aqueduct transporting water passed through it from the Eitam spring; therefore the water wasn’t invalidated by remaining past the night in contrast to the water of the Laver (Kiyor) and indeed to maintain the ritual status of the water they would fill up the Laver with water from it (the Sea of Solomon).

Prof. Michelson based on sources describing the Sea of Solomon calculated that the basin of the Sea of Solomon was 5 cubits in height which was situated on top of statues of oxen 3 cubits high. Thus forcing advocates of Sagiv’s theory to either reject Rambam and the Yerushalmi or forcing them to lower the Temple Courtyard another 8 cubits, which seems to be contradicted by the bedrock levels that will pop up as being too high in many places (if we lower the level of the Temple Courtyard by 8 cubits).

Alternately, Tuvia Sagiv might try to contend that the water for the Sea of Solomon and the mikva of the Cohen Gadol on the water gate came from another source other than the Lower (Hasmonean) Aqueduct. But once you have a need for a separate aqueduct, the whole line of reasoning used to reject the rock under the Dome of the Rock as the place of the Temple falls away. Namely, this second aqueduct might have been high enough to suit the needs of any point on Mount Moriah.

  • According to Rabbi Azariah Ariel, Tuvia Sagiv notes infra-red scans as proof for empty spaces on the Mount in areas he believes supports his theory. Rabbi Ariel rejects the infra-red evidence by claiming the heat measurements are based on the presence or absence of pavement that during the hours that the sun shines on them, they are affected by the absorption and storage of heat and there is no connection between Sagiv’s infra-red data and empty spaces he claims exist. (Rabbi Ariel is astonished that Sagiv was not aware of this point.)
  • Another proof brought by Rabbi Azariah Ariel against the theory of Tuvia Sagiv is the following: In the Talmud Yerushalmi, Tractate Pesachim 7:12 it is stated: Rabbi Yochanan bar Meidiya in the name of Rabbi Pinchas (observed): Since we see that the rabbis take off their sandals under the threshold (of the gate) of the Temple Mount; this implies that they did not bestow Temple Mount sanctity under the threshold of the Temple Mount. Explanation: the Yerushalmi had some doubt whether, the empty space of the gateway is included within the sanctity of the Temple Mount or not. It brings as proof from the custom of the sages to remove their sandals in the gateway itself and not outside of the gateway. That is to say they considered that space of the gateway as lacking sanctity.

Rabbi Yochanan bar Meidiya and Rabbi Pinchas are from the fifth and last generation of Amoraim in the Talmud Yerushalmi, which the secular dating system calls the 4th century. It is clear from the story that these scholars knew precisely, where the gates to the Temple Mount were located and made a decision about removing sandals based on their outlook on the status of the space of the gateway. This completely negates the assumption of Sagiv that the walls of the Temple Mount Complex were buried underneath the complex from the time of Roman Emperor Hadrian. According to Sagiv’s viewpoint the Temple Mount’s gates were both unknown and not accessible during the days of Rabbi Yochanan bar Meidiya and Rabbi Pinchas.

Shlomo Moshe Scheinman is the author of this article. He is also the author of an article on Argaman that appeared in Techumin Vol. 26 and the author of an article on Tekhelet at https://60ribo.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/%D7%A4%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%9F-%D7%91%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%99%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%93-%D7%91%D7%AA%D7%9B%D7%9C%D7%AA.pdf


[1]  See for example, https://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-8.html “he made it to be on a level with the top of the mountain, on which the temple was built”.

[2] See another of Sagiv’s articles in Techumin Volume 14.

I wish to clarify that I (Shlomo Scheinman) do not necessarily, believe the claims made by Josephus about Jewish history, centuries before his days. But Sagiv who does seem to rely a lot on Josephus should take note that Josephus rejected the notion that the Temple was on the lower part of Mount Moriah, namely, the southern part. The vantage point of King Agripas that Sagiv discussed is based on information in the books of Josephus.

[3] Namely, the rock of the Dome of the Rock

[4] Below is a link to a Google Map for someone who is skeptical https://www.google.com/maps/place/%D7%94%D7%9B%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%9C+%D7%94%D7%A7%D7%98%D7%9F%E2%80%AD/@31.7782183,35.2349899,564m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xe29ae554c34c7ba!8m2!3d31.77847!4d35.2341115

[5]  As a short anecdote to drive the point home, I will mention that as boy at the age of 5, I lived in a neighborhood called Silver Spring (Maryland, USA). The whole neighborhood was called by that name because about 2 decades before the American Civil War, Francis Preston Blair came across a mica-flecked spring near, what is today, Georgia Ave. near the District line. Blair liked the location so much, he acquired the property surrounding the spring, built on it a 20-room mansion and called it “Silver Spring”. From there the neighborhood eventually spread out to a much larger area. The source of this information is from https://ghostsofdc.org/2012/10/24/why-is-it-named-silver-spring/

[6] ועיין מלאכת שלמה מסכת מקוואות פרק ה משנה א

העבירו ע”ג בריכה. וכתוב בב”י שם סי’ ר”א דף רל”ח ע”ד בשם מהר”י קולין ז”ל בשרש קט”ו וקכ”ו נלע”ד דאע”ג דקאמר מתני’ דמעין שהפסיקו הרי הוא כמקוה היינו דוקא היכא שנחו המים במקוה וכבר נעשו אשבורן אלא שאתה בא להחשיבו כמעין ע”י חבורו למעין ומש”ה דין הוא כשהופסק ממנו שחזר לדין מקוה אבל היכא דאכתי לא נייחי מיא באשבורן אלא עדיין חיים וזוחלין מכח נביעת המעין אף על פי שהופסקו מהמעין מ”מ שם מעין עליהם עדיין מצד עצמן כיון דאכתי חיים וזוחלין הן ולא פקע חיותן מינייהו והביא ראיה מההוא דתנן גל שנתלש ובו מ’ סאה ונפל על האדם ועל הכלים טהורים ופשיטא שאין לך הפסקה מן המעין גדולה מזו שנתלשה הגל מן הים והולך למרחוק וכן אין לך זחילה גדולה מזו שאין כאן אשבורן כלל וכי היכי דלא יקשה מההיא דמעין שהפסיקו צריך לחלק דטעמא דגל משום דאכתי לא נייחי מיא דגל כדפרישית לעיל עכ”ל ז”ל:

ועיין תוספות יום טוב מסכת מקוואות פרק ה משנה ו, ד”ה גל שנתלש, תפארת ישראל – בועז מסכת מקוואות פרק ז אות יב

ועיין ערוך השולחן יורה דעה סימן רא סעיף צד:

וכתב רבינו הרמ”א בסוף סעי’ ל”ו דאם המים באים אל הצנור על ידי כלים הקבועים בגלגל והם נקובות בדרך שלא מקרי כלי מותר לטבול בהם אם יש מ’ סאה במקוה אבל אם אין בה מ’ סאה אין לטבול שם דלא מקרי חיבור לנהר ע”י זה עכ”ל כלומר משום דכל חיבור שע”י זחילה לא הוי חיבור כמו שיתבאר וכ”ש בכה”ג ועוד דלבד זה דכל שבא מלמעלה קרוב הדבר שיש הפסק כמ”ש וזה שכתב והם נקובות בדרך שלא מקרי כלי זהו כשפופרת הנוד דכן הוא דעת רבינו הרמ”א כמ”ש בסעי’ ס”ז [וקושית הש”ך סק”פ על הרמ”א כבר יישבה הדגמ”ר וכמ”ש ע”ש ודו”ק]:


[7] https://www.hamichlol.org.il/%D7%94%D7%A8_%D7%94%D7%91%D7%99%D7%AA

[8]  And in one of Prof Daniel Michelson’s article, he claims the summit of Mount Moriah is at least 744.5 meters above sea level