City of David
Tel Aviv University administrators on Monday received a petition signed by dozens of senior academics from Israel and abroad calling on the university to withdraw its participation in archaeological excavations in East Jerusalem’s City of David. The national park is indirectly financed by the right-wing NGO Elad, which administers the national park.
Last week, the university’s Institute of Archaeology started digging in the City of David national park, but it was temporarily halted due to the rain and is expected to resume within the next few days.
“Digging in the area is carried out under heavy guard by the Border Patrol and a private security company, a fact that only adds to the friction with village residents,” the petition states. “Under discussion here is a partnership with an extreme political organization and thus a de facto stance on a very contentious issue, both politically and morally. The university is thereby giving the NGO the professional recognition it desires, which academic institutions in Israel and abroad have so far refused to grant.”
The petition’s organizers expressed their concern that the dig would strengthen those who support a boycott against Israeli academics. “Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular,” said Prof. Sidra Ezrahi. “We’re already getting cancellations of conference participation and this is playing straight into the hands of the BDS movement.”
Tel Aviv University responded that the “area designated for the excavation is located far from the houses of Silwan. The dig will be carried out using modern scientific methods, at the highest professional standards, with particular attention paid to professional ethics. In the dig, a great deal of attention will be paid to the needs of those living nearby and the dig will be open to visits by local residents and tourists.
I suppose it all boils down to whether or not people can trust Tel Aviv to conduct the dig properly, regardless of who funds it. I can scarcely imagine that the University will be persuaded to report its findings in a biased manner (as others funded by Elad have done) or that Tel Aviv will take advantage of the inhabitants of the area. Furthermore, I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to claim that
“Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular”
No, I can’t honestly imagine that happening. Not among those who know the reputation of the school and its scholars. The petitioners seem, in this case, to be over-reacting. That’s my view anyway. I trust Tel Aviv to do right. And I will continue to trust Tel Aviv to do right until they give me just cause to change my views.
Archaeologist Ronny Reich has spent years excavating the City of David in East Jerusalem, and has found evidence that threatens the historical reputations of Herod and Hezekiah. He says politics and religion have never interested him, so what’s his connection with the right-wing Elad association, which operates the site?
So asks Ha’aretz.
Reich has written a book,
… which describes the history of excavations at City of David from the 19th century through the present, Reich avoids addressing the political and ideological questions aroused by the excavations there. At the same time, however, he doesn’t hesitate to settle a few professional and political scores with colleagues in the world of archaeology.
Reich generally seeks to avoid confrontation with political rivals, preferring to focus on archaeology. The exception is Prof. Rafi Greenberg of Tel Aviv University. Greenberg heads a group of critical archaeologists called Emek Shaveh, which has frequently taken Elad and Reich to task for exploiting archaeology for political ends. Reich retorts that Greenberg’s activity has caused the dismissal of the Palestinian laborers working at the dig. On this subject, he concurs with Elad’s view that until the leftists came to Silwan, peaceful coexistence prevailed there.
“All through the years I’ve made one demand of Elad, and that is that the workers be from Silwan,” says Reich. “I believe that whoever has the misfortune to live in an antiquities site ought to be able to profit from it. But when they [Emek Shaveh] started up, there was pressure through the mukhtar, through Hamas. The only thing I want to know is if he [Greenberg] gave them [the workers] a good explanation. I think they deserve it.”
Prof. Greenberg declined to comment.
It’s a very long article but one very much worth reading fully.
Among many other useful pieces this new Festschrift contains an essay by the learned Christopher Rollston titled An Old Hebrew Stone Inscription from the City of David.
The series of articles included here honor his many contributions through discussions of a wide variety of inscriptional materials, Biblical texts, archaeology, lexicography and teaching methodology. Included in the volume is a republication of his path breaking exhibition catalogue, Puzzling Out the Past.
(I think they mean ‘groundbreaking’ instead of ‘path breaking’). It’s pricey… But if epigraphy is your thing, it might be just what Santa ordered.
(Yes, old age is softening my disposition. Ya can’t take it with ya and ya sure don’t want to leave it for the kids to spend on video games and fast food).
The Associated Press informs us that
A hard-line Israeli group said Tuesday it was launching plans for a new tourist center at the site of a politically sensitive archaeological dig in a largely Arab neighborhood outside Jerusalem’s Old City, drawing fire from Palestinian officials.
The project’s sponsor, the Elad Foundation, said the new visitors center and parking garage will be built above a section of the excavation area known as the City of David, leaving the ruins below accessible. The foundation said no additional land beyond the current excavation site would be used and that construction, which must pass several zoning committees, was still several years away.
Israeli archaeologists at the City of David, named for the biblical monarch thought to have ruled from the spot 3,000 years ago, are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem. Finds there linked to life and ritual in ancient Jerusalem regularly make international headlines, and the dig has become one of Jerusalem’s most popular tourist attractions.
The site is just outside the Old City walls at the edge of the neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinian Authority says it wants as the capital of a hoped-for state.
Elad is continuing to impinge upon Palestinian properties with the clear goal of 1) uniting Zionists behind them and 2) forcing Palestinians out altogether. Shame on them. And shame on their clearly politically motivated ‘archaeology’ and the archaeologists they’ve co-opted to achieve their purposes.
From the HuffPo-
Mysterious stone carvings made thousands of years ago and recently uncovered in an excavation underneath Jerusalem have archaeologists stumped.
Israeli diggers who uncovered a complex of rooms carved into the bedrock in the oldest section of the city recently found the markings: Three “V” shapes cut next to each other into the limestone floor of one of the rooms, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) deep and 20 inches (50 centimeters) long. There were no finds to offer any clues pointing to the identity of who made them or what purpose they served.
The archaeologists in charge of the dig know so little that they have been unable even to posit a theory about their nature, said Eli Shukron, one of the two directors of the dig.
“The markings are very strange, and very intriguing. I’ve never seen anything like them,” Shukron said.
The shapes were found in a dig known as the City of David, a politically sensitive excavation conducted by Israeli government archaeologists and funded by a nationalist Jewish group under the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem. The rooms were unearthed as part of the excavation of fortifications around the ancient city’s only natural water source, the Gihon spring.
It is possible, the dig’s archaeologists say, that when the markings were made at least 2,800 years ago the shapes might have accommodated some kind of wooden structure that stood inside them, or they might have served some other purpose on their own. They might have had a ritual function or one that was entirely mundane. Archaeologists faced by a curious artifact can usually at least venture a guess about its nature, but in this case no one, including outside experts consulted by Shukron and the dig’s co-director, archaeologists with decades of experience between them, has any idea.
With the experts unable to come up with a theory about the markings, the City of David dig posted a photo on its Facebook page and solicited suggestions. The results ranged from the thought-provoking – “a system for wood panels that held some other item,” or molds into which molten metal would could have been poured – to the fanciful: ancient Hebrew or Egyptian characters, or a “symbol for water, particularly as it was near a spring.”
Yeah that’s pretty odd. But not as odd as some of the ‘solutions’ on the FB page… Aren Maeir probably knows. Someone ask him. Or Israel Finkelstein.
- Experts stumped by ancient Jerusalem markings (AP) (old.news.yahoo.com)
- Experts stumped by ancient Jerusalem markings (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Israeli courts are as messed up as American courts it looks like:
The City of David Foundation can continue to operate the City of David Archaeological Park in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, despite a petition against the private organization’s right to manage a national park, the High Court of Justice decided on Wednesday. Left-wing group Ir Amim filed the petition in July 2010 to challenge an allegedly secret contract between the Israel National Parks Authority and Elad, a right-wing organization that supports Jewish residents in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan.
Interesting how the Post labels Ir Amin ‘left wing’ but doesn’t call Elad ‘far-right wing’ as would be appropriate were the report ‘fair and balanced’.
Ir Amim charged that Elad’s political agenda was ignoring the Arab history of the site and creating a conflict of interest. The City of David Park, which holds archeological ruins from the First Temple Period, has long been a source of tension between Elad and the Arab residents of Silwan, who accuse the park of encroaching on their land. The court found that the contract between the Israel National Parks Authority and Elad could continue with some changes. Elad and the INPA are due to sign a new contract in March 2012. The court also clarified that while Elad is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the park, the site’s administration, including major decisions, remained the responsibility of the Parks Authority.
What a shame. Ideology trumps science and the preservation of ancient sites balanced with the needs of the living.
- Elad’s Control Over Jerusalem’s ‘City of David’ is Remarkable (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Elad: Wielding Power to no Good Purpose (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Eilat Mazar Calls the Jerusalem Dig ‘Unscientific’! (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Nicely Said, Neil (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
Neil Asher Silberman writes in connection with the Mazar denunciation of Elad’s ideologically driven ‘archaeology’-
A truly pitiful example of the ideologically inspired and financed archaeological work in the “City of David.” Is this a battle for “science” or just envy in not being allowed to claim the credit for another “this land really belongs to us” claim.
Jeremiah’s Pit would have been another fine addition to the bogus Mazar corpus. See, for example, blog report from Feb. 22, 2010.
Of course with Mazar or without her, this biblical chimera could still become a tourist attraction and a rationale for expropriation. When will this government-approved misuse of archaeology stop?
Nicely said, Neil.
Dr. Eilat Mazar – a Hebrew University archaeologist who worked in close cooperation with Elad over past years, and who is considered one of the most productive researchers in Jerusalem and in the City of David area in particular – has castigated Elad for the excavation of a large subterranean pit, called “Jeremiah’s Pit,” at the entrance to the City of David visitors’ center complex.
Mazar’s claims against Elad are being leveled at a crucial time as a proposed law to privatize public parks is being considered. If approved, the bill will enable Elad, a private association which excavates, maintains and conducts tours of the City of David, to maintain control of the historic site – situated in the predominantly Arab village of Silwan, adjacent to the Old City.
“To my astonishment I discovered that for over a year Elad, together with the Antiquities Authority, has been secretly planning a tourism gimmick called the ‘Jeremiah’s Pit Project,” writes Mazar in her letter, noting that the excavation is only two meters away from the excavation area that she directed between 2005 and 2008. She says that she wanted to continue digging in the present area, but was prevented from doing so “for logistical reasons, since north of the site the Antiquities Authority permitted Elad to build a special events hall,” and because of the area’s proximity to a residential building and a road.
Ha’aretz has more- where the title of the essay is ‘top archaeologist decries Jerusalem dig as unscientific tourist gimmick‘!!!
There goes her funding from Elad! And at last she’s finally seen what the rest of us have known for years.
- Elad: Wielding Power to no Good Purpose (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- The “Large Stone Structure” in Jerusalem: Reality versus Yearning (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Finkelstein v. Garfinkel: The ‘Ir David’ Smackdown (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
The authority wielded by Elad settler association impacts increasingly on the lives of Palestinian residents of Silwan and other districts of East Jerusalem. Some residents have likened Elad to a “kingdom within a state”, given its labyrinthine network of control over infrastructure and funds in Jerusalem. The jewel in Elad’s crown is the exclusive power it holds over Silwan’s historical sites, the chief earner in the mammoth revenue it gains in Jerusalem. Elad’s privately-hired, publicly-funded settler security militia command a conspicuous presence on the streets of Silwan, where they are engaged in continual violent harassment and provocation of Palestinian residents.
Waleed, a resident of Silwan, states that “Elad reaps its revenue from stolen Palestinian land, largely through the Absentee Property Law. Palestinian residents experience no benefit whatsoever from the tourist industry in our neighborhood, while Elad extends its reach of control over ever more land. This occurs with the full cooperation of the Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli ministries, who act like Elad’s puppet, serving its every need.”
There’s more, which you should read, at least in order to hear the other side of the story.