Elad and The Manipulation of Facts in Silwan

An interesting essay today over on Art Info which contains this usefully instructive paragraph which so nicely encapsulates what Elad is all about:

A 2006 report by Ir Amim, a left-wing advocacy group focused on Jerusalem, described one instance in which Dr. Eilat Mazar, an archaeologist working at a dig funded by Elad, claimed to have found the pipe that David’s warriors traveled through when they conquered the city. This was despite the fact that many scholars — including Ronny Reich, an archaeologist at Haifa University who worked at the same site — were skeptical that David or Solomon had ever been there. On another occasion, Reich uncovered a Byzantine water pit and was instructed by Elad to present it as the cistern of Malkijah, the pit Jeremiah was thrown into by the son of Zedekiah, the king of Judah, according to the Old Testament. For weeks, the attribution was listed on the website and echoed by tour guides, even though Reich himself said that it was “nonsense.”

More scathing:

A Google search of the group’s founder, David Be’eri, leads to multiple stories about the day he passed through Silwan in a silver four-door sedan and was confronted by Palestinian youths throwing stones. He struck two of them with his car and drove off, later claiming he had felt he was in danger and was trying to flee. Though both boys avoided serious injury, the incident was broadcast on Al Jazeera as well as Israeli television, and in numerous clips on YouTube.

It’s hard to imagine how an organization whose leader is best known for running over Palestinian children with his car could invite itself into archaeology, a field in which professionals pride themselve in being almost tediously objective. In recent years, however, Elad has managed to do just that, funding public education projects in Silwan that would make viewers believe that politics was not Elad’s concern.

And then this:

Because of the drama of archaeology in Jerusalem, in addition to the sizable funds it provides for research areas like Silwan, researchers like Reich have frequently found themselves forced to answer difficult questions about cooperating with Elad. Israel Finkelstein, a professor of archaeology at TAU who is involved in the work at Silwan and is described among colleagues as “center-left,” gave a notably guarded answer when I asked him if he had qualms about doing archaeological work in which Elad was involved. “I have always kept distance from politics, so I am not going to answer this question,” he wrote in an email. “My only interest is to better understand archaeology and history. In order to make things clear, let me add that: 1) the Tel Aviv University dig will be carried out as a joint venture with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA); no other body will be involved in the dig; 2) Tel Aviv University and its Institute of Archaeology work according to law.”

I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that if Israel Finkelstein is involved everything done will be on the level.  Even if Elad attempts to exert influence.  Finkelstein is not the sort of person who can be pushed around.  This, I know.

And then this:

Rafael Greenberg, another professor of archaeology at TAU who has stood out for his opposition to the university’s involvement in Silwan, regularly expressed concerns about Elad’s involvement to his colleague Ronny Reich, who, recently, has become the head of the IAA’s archaeological council. “Whenever I told them he was being used by the settlers,” he told ARTINFO, “He’d say, ‘No, I’m using them.’”

Speaking over the phone last week, Greenberg repeated his feelings about Elad’s presence in the area, as well as the public relations concerns of TAU’s involvement. Part of what made him want to speak reporters, as it turned out, was how unconvincing he thought TAU’s message will be to Palestinian Silwanis, whose anxieties about losing their home might overlap with anxieties about being evicted from history. “No amount of spin or declarative sentences saying ‘we’re not being part of it,’ is going to change that, unless they actively dissociate themselves from that project,” he said. “It has to be a completely new concept, in order to carry out an excavation that is not associated with the settlers, with the Israeli view of history.”

Plus loads more which those interested in the subject will surely wish to read. I’ll only suggest, in conclusion, that Elad is agenda driven and that’s as plain as the nose on my face.

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.

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.

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.

Palestinians, You Don’t Advance Your Cause When You Write…

The first recorded human settlement of the Jerusalem area, known as Yaboos [Jebus], had its core in where Silwan now lies some 5,000 years ago. The Egyptian, Persian, Besantian [Byzantine], Christian and Islamic civilizations followed, leaving their finger prints on the area. The most famous was the caliphate of Umayyad era, which is connected to the recent discoveries in Silwan.

Be serious for a minute.  Even if you deny the existence of a Davidic Kingdom you can’t possibly suggest that there were no Jews in Jerusalem in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, which you completely leave out.

Such absurd historical ignorance or deceptive ideologically driven denial does no one any good.  Not even you.

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.

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.

Evacuating Silwan

Since I’ve come down with some sort of flu or something I’ve ended up staying home tonight and have watched the 60 Minutes segment on Silwan.  The guy Leslie Stahl interviewed who defended the evacuation of Palestinians and justified their displacement is pure downright wicked.

Stahl is right to suggest that they aren’t just digging in the City of David, they’re digging in.  Astonishingly, the talking heads on the Jewish side seem utterly unconcerned for the Palestinians they are uprooting all in the search for some putative ‘history’ in the city.  Astonishingly… well, maybe not.  The fact is, Zionists and Christian Zionists have never cared about the Palestinians or about what happens to them when Israelis ‘dig in’ and evict.

If you missed it, you can still check it out here.