Tag Archives: City of David

Elad And Tel Aviv University: A Marriage, Evidently, Not Smiled Upon By All

Ha’aretz reports

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.

And then

“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.”

And then

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.

A Fine Photo of the Gihon Spring

I saw this here and felt it was worth passing along:

What’s Ronnie Reich’s Connection to Elad?

via Ha'areta

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.

For instance

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.

Book Announcement: Puzzling out the Past

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).

Elad’s Expansionistic Goals and Policies

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.

The Strange Shapes in the Floor: A ‘City of David’ Mystery

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Nicely Said, Neil

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.

Eilat Mazar Calls the Jerusalem Dig ‘Unscientific’!

Well how do you like that!

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

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.

Finkelstein v. Garfinkel: The ‘Ir David’ Smackdown

I’d love to be there for this:

Under the auspices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Elad organization, and leading archaeologists, excavations take place year round in the City of David and vicinity, with hundreds of workers and volunteers. The enormous amount of work on this small area produces results that literally change the history books every year and percolate throughout the international academic world. This year will make its mark as well.

Events of the 10th Century BCE have been in the public and academic eyes in recent years. Two key protagonists in this discussion will face off by addressing different aspects of their research which directly and indirectly relate to David and Solomon’s Jerusalem.

Prof. Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University) will analyze several major structures generally considered to be hard evidence of David’s City. His surgical analysis stone by stone and confrontation of academic paper by academic paper will certainly shake up and perhaps demolish conventional assumptions, throwing a stumbling block in front of easy explanations and diagrams.

Taking the other side of this debate, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) will present a brand-new median theory of the Judean Kingdom’s origins and historical precedence based on his recent excavations at Elah Fortress – Khirbet Qeiyafa, overlooking the Elah Valley where David and Goliath fought. Garfinkel believes the mighty 10th century BCE fortifications, extensive pottery, carbon-14 analysis, ancient writing, text-related features, and other findings of his four excavation seasons now shed new light on other sites and together draw a picture of a regional polity in this region and this period which cannot be ignored.

LandMinds and The ‘City of David’ and the ‘Elah Fortress’

From their Facebook page-

This week on LandMinds… (September 7, 2011) – we’re off on another road trip – this time to the Elah Fortress (Kh. Qeiyafa). Barnea and I take a look at this year’s results – and review the “Second Gate Controversy”. Next, we have the director of Megalim – the City of David educational organization, Mr. Aharon Horowitz. In our final hour, Barnea and Dovid shmooze about some recent excavations and tours… It’s a fun show – listen to the live stream at 5pm or download the podcasts from the LandMinds page at http://www.facebook.com/l/gAQA4CD77AQDUI2BBy-IaEJ4kojSvB4nrZzUQES_vuvie3g/www.foundationstone.org.

The ‘Father of Biblical Archaeology’? Israel Finkelstein??

I don’t think so.

A senior archaeologist at Tel Aviv University has cast doubt on the alleged Jewish heritage of Jerusalem. Israel Finkelstein’s claims have been made in the face of official Israeli and biblical claims to the occupied city.

Professor Finkelstein, who is known as “the father of biblical archaeology”, told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish archaeologists have found no historical or archaeological evidence to back the biblical narrative on the Exodus, the Jews’ wandering in Sinai or Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. On the alleged Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it really existed.

According to Finkelstein’s university colleague, archaeology lecturer Rafi Greenberg, Israel is supposed to find something if it digs for a period of six weeks. But, Greenberg told the Jerusalem Post, Israelis have been excavating the so-called City of David in the occupied Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan for two years to no avail.

There’s more.  I have to admit being bemused by the report.  And especially by Finkelstein being called the ‘father of biblical archaeology’.  That title belongs to Albright.  And Albright was no Finkelstein!

UPDATE: Israel remarks concerning the article-

This is typical Palestinian propaganda, aimed at showing that there was no Temple in Jerusalem etc. Of course, this is not what I say. What a pity. As long as they go this way, there is no chance for real peace in the Middle East.

The “Large Stone Structure” in Jerusalem: Reality versus Yearning

Israel Finkelstein’s latest essay which has just appeared in ZDPV 127 (2011) 1, addresses the following:

Two opposing interpretations of recent finds in E. MAZAR’s excavations in the City of David have now been presented to the scholarly community. The first was published by the excavator herself and is fully supported by A. MAZAR. Much of the E. MAZAR/A. MAZAR analysis is now backed by A. FAUST.

The second interpretation of the finds, based on the results of the first season of excavation at the site in 2005, was presented by Z. HERZOG, L. SINGER-AVITZ, D. USSISHKIN and the present author.

Finkelstein discusses the differences between the vying viewpoints and concludes that Mazar et al’s interpretation of the data is simply wrong.

It’s a grand piece and worth reading.

The ‘New’ Biblical Archaeology

First, it’s new (according to its author) because

After almost 150 years of work, biblical archeology has thus moved from a supporting role in theological dramas to a fully scientific branch of world archeology. But for over two decades it has also been drawn directly into the Arab-Israeli and, increasingly, the Muslim-Jewish, conflict. At its extreme, biblical archeology has been falsely accused of being a handmaiden of Zionism, through the invention of finds as well as the destruction of Palestinian and Muslim remains. Israelis and Arabs alike have been bitterly critical of research projects, particularly in Jerusalem, which appear to upset the city’s delicate Jewish- Arab relations.

And second

Still, the most notable feature of the new biblical archeology is that it is largely unapologetic. Some of the largest projects are undertaken precisely on sites that relate directly to biblical history. The vitality of the archeological community is met with eager public interest, with CNN and Fox News carrying stories about sites that appear to figure prominently in biblical history. The successful run (whatever its leaps of faith and logic) of TV’s biblically-focused The Naked Archeologist is another sign of public interest.

I’m not sure really how Joffe can make either of those claims legitimately. The idea especially that the new biblical archaeology is disconnected from apologetics is disproven the minute one looks at what’s going on in the City of David dig.  And the press’s coverage of the field tends to be grossly ill informed (as are Simcha’s television specials).

In short, I don’t think there’s much new about the current practice of archaeology in Israel aside from the work of Finkelstein, Cline, and Maier and some new tools utilized in the field.

Anyway, read it all and form your own opinion on the correctness of Joffe’s views.

Has a Golden Bell from A Second Temple High Priest been Discovered?

Via Joseph Lauer

Dr. Rachel Elior just notified me of a very interesting Hebrew Ynet article that concerns the discovery in Ir David of a pure gold ornamental bell, about a centimeter in diameter (see picture below), that is thought to have been worn by the High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The illustrated article is captioned (in rough translation) “A souvenir from the Second Temple: Has a bell of the High Priest been found?” and sub-captioned, “The bell, made of pure gold, was discovered intact during excavations in the City of David. “This is a unique item in Jerusalem,” said an archaeologist [Eli Shukron], “You can dig a lifetime and not discover such a find”.  The article is at http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4098615,00.html.  There is more in the article that will have to await a full translation and it can be expected that much more will follow on the subject.

Well there you go.  A golden object identified not just with any priest in any period but the High Priest from the Second Temple period.  Maybe it belonged to Caiphas!  Maybe it was found right below the spot where Jesus cleansed the Temple and one of the high priests, running away from the whip, dropped it!!!!!  Heavens to Betsy.  The things we ‘know’.

UPDATE:  And so it begins.  An article in English announces ‘Archaeologists discover High Priest’s Bell.’  So there it is.  The issue is settled.  Now, which High Priest was it?

But wait, the article denies its own headline… at the end…

While it is unknown if the bell belonged to one of the high priests, archaeologists have not ruled out the possibility.

So there it is.  It is the high priests but it is unknown if it is but the possibility isn’t ruled out…  Thanks for the meaninglessness.

Holy Land Grabs (via Sects and Violence in the Ancient World)

Steve shares some very good thoughts on the misuse of archaeology for political purposes.

Holy Land Grabs Civilization began in the “Middle East.” Ever since then, it has been a struggle to keep it together. One of the sad realities of the last century and continuing into this is that peace in this region seems as elusive as a Tea Partier with compassion. Claims to land are among the most complex of human inventions. Having never been a property owner, I’ve only ever watched this from the sidelines, but I know the endless surveying, assessing, and ne … Read More

via Sects and Violence in the Ancient World

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.