Joe Zias on the CBS ‘City of David’ Report

City of David Archaeology Site

Image by Randall Niles via Flickr

Back in October CBS aired a segment on 60 Minutes on Silwan which generated a bit of discussion- especially in Israel. Joe Zias has recently had a chance to view the report and he writes the following:

I just watched it and got my blood pressure up as I fully agree with CBS 60 minutes and the Palestinians over this one. This is a settler enterprise, funded to a great extent by American orthodox Jews, American Christian fundamentalists and Pentecostals. Many of my colleagues are against this and while I could go on and on let me cite but three things which in a way exemplify much of what is wrong here [in Jerusalem].

A. Across the hill is the Mt of Olives, we lived there for several years until I got drafted by the IDF in 1974. For the sake of the Arab neighbors we returned to west Jerusalem. During our stay we were the only Jewish/Israeli family there and during the Yom Kippur War the Arabs made sure that we were protected, the three of us and our property. At one point we left the village to return to the kibbutz which needed manpower for the ‘falcha’. When we returned several weeks later our property was as it was before the war, untouched. And being the only Jewish family there, everyone knew us. Today there is another Jewish (settler) family living there, IL flags flying atop the roof tops, fences and security around the clock fully funded by the taxpayers, including the Palestinians living there.

B. In the City of David, I happened by chance to discover ancient inscriptions on the Tomb of Absalom ca. 10 years ago which had gone unnoticed for centuries. Mayor Olmert and company helped fund the project as the inscriptions were 10 meters in the air and it was costly. Once we read the inscriptions which were in Greek it showed that during the Byzantine period they believed it was the tomb of the father of John the Baptist along with the worlds oldest NT inscription in stone. The find was widely published, lots of media attention; however as it’s Christian, settler guides there today totally ignore the find and on the model of the tombs which the public sees in the entrance to the City of David, the tomb of ‘Absalom’ does not appear. Once Olmert left and the new mayor was Hasidic, I had to fund out of pocket much of the rest of the research there, which until today I was never able to recoup. As far as excavations in the City of David go, one must remember that Yigal Shilo from the Hebrew University worked there for a number of years some three decades ago with little if any trouble with the local people living there. Why? Well for one (and perhaps the main) reason, there were no settlers there attempting to take over the whole area. Remove the settlers from the equation and peace will return to the ancient ‘City of David’.

C. A colleague in Tel Aviv Univ., Rafi Greenberg, has set up with the local Arabs an alternative website and monthly tours of the City of David. When I joined one (ca. 10 people) several months ago, we were at the Siloam pool on a Friday afternoon and suddenly a settler appeared and asked us to leave saying that he wished to undress and enter the water. As we had been there first we told him, ‘help yourself, go into the water, we’ve seen naked men before’ however as women were there and he didn’t have much of a sense of humor, he refused and told us to leave. We responded that we would leave when Prof. Greenberg finished explaining the pool and not before. The settler disappeared and returned immediately with an armed guard who was guarding one of the settler houses. A shouting match ensued and we told both of them that we would leave only when we were good and ready and if he wanted a mikva before Sabbath there were probably a 100 or more here and there in Jerusalem. Seeing that we were a rather ‘stiff necked people’ unwilling to ‘turn the other cheek’ and not bow down to their demands they left.

I could go on and on. However as my blood pressure is up I have to go for a morning run. I’m speaking publicly about this because many of us are interested in the future of Jerusalem. Today this is how things are in the city of Jerusalem and the 60 Minutes segment accurately expresses the problems and misrepresentations of the facts there.


I appreciate Joe’s perspective.  He lives in the city and his view from there is much more useful than that of others who don’t.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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