King David's tomb 370.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Israel Antiquities Authority on Sunday defended its decision not to replace
vandalized Ottomanera ceramic tiles on the walls of King David’s Tomb next to
the Old City’s Zion Gate in Jerusalem.
The tomb has undergone extensive
restoration over the last six years overseen by the IAA, with one omission:
replacement of the damaged tiles.
According to police records, the tiles
were first shattered by a 30-year-old haredi man on the night of December 19,
. He was arrested shortly thereafter, when police in the area heard loud
smashing noises coming from the tomb.
When officers entered the building,
they found the man holding an ax, hammer and a screw driver. An accomplice who
was at the scene fled when police arrived, records state.
told police that he came to the tomb to pray for a “shiduch” (marriage match),
and claimed that his accomplice informed him that his prayers would be answered
only if he prayed directly to the stones behind the walls’ ceramic
Approximately two weeks later, vandals destroyed more of the
17th-century antique ceramic tiles
, created by Ottoman-era artists in the
interior of the tomb’s main room, which once served as a mosque.
decision by the IAA not to restore the destroyed tiles on the tomb’s walls
resulted in protest from a group of academics and historians, who contended that
by not restoring the walls, the IAA was “rewarding” the
“Deciding not to reconstruct the tile work is first and foremost
rewarding the vandals, who achieved their goal,” wrote Doron Bar, a geography
and Jewish history professor at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies; Dr.
Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, curator at Yad Ben Zvi Institute; Elhanan Reiner, a
humanities professor at Tel Aviv University; Ora Limor, professor of history,
philosophy and Judaic studies at The Open University of Israel; and Dr. Amnon
Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.
[the tomb] used to be a multicultural space despite the disagreements,” Limor
told local media. “David is a powerful character and everyone wants him to
himself. Each of the three [monotheistic] religions involved has its
fingerprints here, and the ceramic tiles were the Muslim fingerprint. At
this point, I’m really worried about the Last Supper.”
In a statement
released Sunday, IAA official Yoli Schwartz made it clear that the authority
worked for years to restore the tiles but cannot be held responsible for their
illegal destruction at the hands of vandals.
“During the months preceding
the vandalism of the Muslim tiles, [the] IAA invested thorough and ongoing
preservation of these tiles,” the statement read. “However, the tiles were
irreversibly damaged – therefore, the choice was either a full reconstruction of
the 17th-century tiles or exposing the hewn rock walls of the original
The statement continued, “Because a full restoration is not
in keeping with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s mission, the authority chose
to preserve the walls instead. No attempt has been made to hide remnants
of different eras.”
The statement went on to note that the tiles that
were not destroyed will be prominently displayed.
“It should be
emphasized that the few tiles that withstood the vandalism have been left and
professionally preserved, and will continue to serve as a representation for
that period,” it added.
“There is no connection between the attempt to
discredit the authority and considerations of professional and scientific truth
itself,” the statement concluded.