Friedman, Greenblatt attend archaeological inauguration in City of David

Emek Shaveh activists were removed by police from protesting against the Sunday opening of Pilgrim Road, which they call “Fighting Road.”

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July 1, 2019 02:53
4 minute read.
Friedman, Greenblatt attend archaeological inauguration in City of David

Sara Netanyahu, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman tour Pilgrimage Road . (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

US Ambassador David Friedman and US Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt attended the inauguration of Pilgrimage Road in the City of David on Sunday, triggering angry denunciations from Palestinian and left-wing circles for taking part in a “settler project.”

Ministers Rafi Peretz and Uri Ariel, US Senator Lindsey Graham, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Israel Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson, and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were also among those present at the event.

Friedman wielded a sledge hammer and broke through a wall, ceremoniously opening the tunnel. Palestinians slammed the participation of US officials as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem.

The event was hotly contested by activists from the NGO Emek Shaveh who argued that, due to its location in east Jerusalem,  the decision to excavate the find was motivated by politics rather than searching for historical truth.

“The City of David brings biblical Jerusalem back to life," Friedman said at the event. "It enables every one of us to stroll the corridors where the ancient prophets of Israel gave voice to revolutionary ideals of freedom, liberty and human dignity."

"It is our unique privilege as Americans to walk together with our Israeli counterparts on the just unveiled Pilgrimage Road, where our shared ancestors ascended the flagstone steps in prayer and blessing," he said.

Earlier Friedman and Greenblatt slammed the activists who had protested their cooperation in the event, with Friedman saying that discovery “brings truth and science to a debate that has been marred too long by myths.”

He argued that this discovery, among others, will “bring an end to the baseless efforts to deny the historical fact of Jerusalem’s ancient connection to the Jewish people.” 

Greenblatt said that Emek Shaveh activists “misunderstand the meaning of archeology,” and claimed that “peace can only be built on truth.”

Pilgrim Road was discovered in 2004 when a sewage pipe burst and workers found long and wide stairs near to the water pool Jewish pilgrims used to purify themselves in before ascending to the Temple.

The discovery lead to further research by the City of David , an archeological site which studies the history of Jerusalem from the Bronze period until the Middle Ages.

The road now offers visitors the chance to walk the ancient path of Jewish pilgrims from the ritual pool, the Shiloah, to the Western Wall – the last surviving architectural element related to the temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

The political tension is due to the site being situated in the neighborhood of Silwan, which used to be controlled by Jordan until the Six Day War of 1967, in which the IDF asserted control over it.

The former Jordanian part of Jerusalem is seen by many Palestinians as the future capital of their own future-state and questions around it, and indeed the status of Temple Mount on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque is situated, are at the heart of any future resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel currently controls the whole of Jerusalem and many Israelis see the unified city as its capital.

While the whole world is riveted when a Heinrich Schliemann discovers ancient Troy or Hiram Bingham III discovers the Inca city of Machu Picchu, in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict a dig is much more than just a dig.

Zeev Hertzog and Israel Finkelstein are two famous archeologists who argue that there are few proofs, if any, that the biblical narrative is founded in historical reality. Their approach is known as the minimal approach, meaning, if there are no evidences that it happened we can’t say that it did.

On the other hand, the late Adam Zertal was positive he found Joshua’s altar, a direct proof that the biblical conquest of Canaan took place at least in part, he believed. 

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post he intended to bring more international delegations of diplomats “to walk on the same road” that Jews used to ascend to the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago.

The US presence at the ceremony, he said, was a strong statement against past resolutions by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that “denied the connection of Jews to those sites.”

Greenblatt and Friedman’s presence “sends a clear message to the entire world that they recognize the connection of Jews and Christians to the holy sites in the Old City and the eternal connection of Jews to the Old City and the City of David,” Danon said.

Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.



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