Now the Stones Will Speak [Excerpts]
For those who hate Israel, one of the most dangerous things a Jew can do in Jerusalem is to start digging. Because the more you dig there, the worse it gets for those who would like to pretend that Israelis are alien colonists imposing their rule on the so-called indigenous people of the region.
You might think arguments claiming that the Jews were alien to the place are limited to the nonsensical propaganda that emanates from the less enlightened portions of the Islamic world. Claims from the Muslim Wakf that administers the TempleMount in Jerusalem that the place has been a mosque since the days of Adam and Eve are, we hope, laughed off by those who read the mainstream press.
But though few in this country outside of academia have noticed, the notion of Israel being the historical homeland of the Jewish people has been under attack from far more reputable sources. In recent decades, a new front in the war on Israel was opened in intellectual journals and classrooms. Its goal? To trash the notion that the Bible's accounts of the history of ancient Israel have the slightest value, and to debunk the idea that the United Kingdom of David ever existed.
As professor Jonathan Rosenbaum, president of GratzCollege here in Philadelphia and himself a leading authority on Ancient Near East studies, said: "If you can upend the idea that King David was a historic figure and that ancient Israel was real, then you can delegitimize modern Israel."
And in the spirit of the post-Zionist fashion that has swept over Israel in the last decade, these ideas have been embraced by a number of influential Israeli archaeologists, too. Most prominently, Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University has written that the idea of the Davidic kingdom is not based on fact, and that David's Jerusalem was nothing but a "poor village."
But last week, the debunkers of Jewish history got some bad news. And all it took was for a dedicated archaeologist to start digging.
Dr. Eilat Mazar, senior fellow of the Jerusalem-based ShalemCenter's Institute for the Archaeology of the Jewish People, made public the results of the dig she had been conducting since February in an area south of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where scholars believe the city of David existed. What she produced ought to help quiet those who think Jewish history is bunk.
Amid the soil and rocks of the place that is now the village of Silwan, Mazar uncovered the ruins of the building she's sure was the palace of David itself -- the very same structure that was built, according to the Bible, by King Hiram of Tyre for Israel's greatest king, around 1,000 BCE.
Directly underneath the structure that was uncovered were "masses of pottery" all dating to the 11th and 12th centuries BCE, the era that archaeologists call Iron Age I, which predates the era of David. By its position in the site, this pottery, which was a unique find in of itself, makes it clear that "Iron I was over or almost over by the time the building was started," said Mazar.
"Once I started to excavate," says Mazar, "it was as if I had written nothing. Now, the stones will speak, not me."
And speak they do.
For those who contend that what she found was more likely the Jebusite fort David conquered or something else that predates his kingdom, Mazar said that the placement of the Iron I pottery right underneath it makes such a conclusion "problematic."
"How come I didn't find any remains of any construction underneath it? It doesn't make any sense. If this is the fortress, it was erected a day before King David captured the city.
‘A NAME IS A NAME’
Just as telling was an artifact only 1 centimeter long, uncovered from a slightly later period. It was an impression of an ancient seal, or "bullah," which bore the name of Jerucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi.
Who was he? Nothing less than a minister of the Kingdom of Judah in its last days before the Babylonian destruction of the city in 586 BCE. We know of him only because he is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah. But the bullah proves his existence isn't a literary flight of fancy.
"Layer by layer, we must take the Bible much, much more seriously than was ever thought, and treat it as a most important historic document that contains a lot of realistic descriptions," declares Mazar (Tobin, Jewish World Review, August 11, 2005).