Digging for ties

The City of David area is probably the most excavated site in Israel and yet after 150 years of digging the surprises keep coming.

December 3, 2015 20:19
3 minute read.
damascus gate

Passers-by walk near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City [File[. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)


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The City of David area is probably the most excavated site in Israel and yet after 150 years of digging the surprises keep coming. This week The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced the discovery of yet more proof of the Jewish people’s unique and ancient ties to Jerusalem – a nearly 3,000-year-old seal that belonged to the biblical King Hezekiah.

The find also provides evidence that the Bible is not solely a religious document, but also contains scientifically verifiable historical fact, in this case, proof of the existence of a Jewish king named Hezekiah who ruled in Jerusalem three millennia ago.

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“This is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archeological excavation,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is directing the excavations for the Hebrew University.

The seal bearing the inscription “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah,” is thought to date to 727-698 BCE. It was found inside what is believed to be a refuse dump that probably originated in the royal building that stood next to it.

This building was constructed in the second half of the 10th century BCE, the time of King Solomon, as part of the fortifications of the Ophel – the governmental quarter built in the area that connects the City of David with the Temple Mount.

Today the area is called the Ophel Archeological Park.

This discovery comes on the heels of another major archeological find from just a few weeks ago that has special pertinence for the upcoming Hanukka holiday.

Central to the holiday is the celebration of the victory of the Jews over their Greek enemies. According to Jewish tradition, a small group of Jews triumphed over the Greeks though they were vastly outnumbered.

However this Jewish tradition could not be backed up with scientific proof because there was scant archeological evidence of a large Greek military presence in Jerusalem.

All this changed last month when Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists funded by the El Ad Foundation found what they believe to be the Greek Acra, a garrison built by Antiochus IV, discovered beneath the Givati parking lot of the City of David.

Lead sling shots, bronze arrowheads and ballista stones found at the site and stamped with a trident, which symbolized the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, are the remains of battles waged at the time of the Hasmoneans, in their attempt to conquer the citadel which was viewed as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of the city and operated by Hellenized Jews and mercenaries. The fortification’s mighty defenses withstood all attempts to conquer it until 141 BCE when after a prolonged siege and the starvation of the Greek garrison in the Acra, Simon Maccabeus was able to force its surrender.

These findings and others are particularly significant at a time when the Jews’ ties to Jerusalem are questioned by a wide range of individuals from a reporter for The New York Times to the Mufti of Jerusalem. Faced with indisputable archeological evidence, those who continue to doubt whether a Jewish Temple stood on the Temple Mount are either deliberately lying to advance an anti-Israel agenda or are under the influence of these Israel bashers.

The State of Israel was established on this particular slab of real estate not because the Jews of the world had no choice, but because they could not imagine reestablishing Jewish sovereignty anywhere other than their historic homeland. The Uganda Proposal and other such schemes that sought to create a Jewish state outside the Land of Israel ultimately failed not principally due to a lack of resources or diplomatic support, but because the vast majority of Jews rightly could not imagine a Jewish nation anywhere but where Jewish history began. The Land of Israel resonated, and continues to resonate, with historical, religious and cultural meaning for Jews. That’s why so many have chosen, and continue to choose, to live here.

And additional findings no less important than Hezekiah’s seal or the Acra Garrison remain to be discovered.

Though the City of David is the most excavated area in Israel, two-thirds still has not been dug up. New and exciting artifacts are waiting to be discovered, which will reveal the Jewish peoples’ deep ties to Jerusalem and to the Land of Israel. There is much to look forward to.

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