Symbolism with meaning

Unveiled last week, a medallion was discovered along with other gold artifacts in a cache near the Temple Mount.

By
September 15, 2013 04:41
3 minute read.
ARCHEOLOGIST DR. Eilat Mazar showcases her team’s historic findings at a press conference at HU.

ARCHEOLOGIST DR. Eilat Mazar 370. (photo credit: DANIEL K. EISENBUD)

Symbols embossed on the well-preserved seventh century gold medallion, suspended from an impressive gold chain, are instantaneously recognizable to any Jewish eye in the 21st century. They are the familiar seven-branched menorah, the shofar and a Torah scroll of the sort that proliferates in today’s synagogues.

Unveiled last week, the stunning medallion was discovered along with other gold artifacts in a cache dug into the floor of an edifice near the Temple Mount’s southern wall. The Hebrew University’s Dr. Eilat Mazar, who headed the archeological team, described the finding as “the greatest gift we could get for the New Year and for Eretz Israel,” as “breathtaking” and as “once-in a lifetime.”

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The medallion is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found to date. The emblems featured on it as well as its emotive location come as a timely answer to Palestinian Authority higher-ups who assert that the Jews have no connection to Jerusalem or this land and that it is all fraudulent foreign fabrication.

Mazar alluded to the Arab negation of all of Jewish history when she stressed: “Finding this treasure so close to the Temple Mount’s southern wall gate epitomizes the endless longings of the Jewish people throughout the generations for deliverance and revival in its homeland.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it “a historical testimony of the first-rate of the Jewish people’s bond to Jerusalem, to the Jewish homeland and to Jewish heritage.”

Referring to the ancient medallion, former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin wrote that “the annals of our life as a nation are revealed to us, peeled back from layers of history… and they teach us that we are a nation that never gives up.”

But just as the truly awe-inspiring discovery at the foot of the holiest site to Judaism was admired and extolled, the second holiest site, the Mount of Olives, continues to suffer neglect.

On Monday, 54 members of the Ashkelon Zionist Council made their way to the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery, as part of their annual tour of Jerusalem during the Days of Awe. As their bus climbed up the road, it encountered a hail of stones. Windows were smashed and one young girl was wounded.

True, in recent months there have been fewer stoning attacks and fewer desecrations of tombstones. Lighting, 142 surveillance cameras and new fences have improved an intolerable situation. But as the above cited attack on a bus carrying men, women and children shows, mourners and visitors to the Mount are still not safe.

Arab predations on Jews trying to reach the incomparable site have not been rooted out and some of the underlying reasons for this are mind-blowing. The promised police substation at the Mount of Olives was indeed put up. The trouble is that a single cop mans it instead of the 24 who were supposed to patrol around the clock. One man cannot be vigilant at all corners of the extensive area.

Permanent police presence is likewise vital on the road to the cemetery, to protect visitors and to deter their tormentors.

To allow lawlessness at so hallowed a site is unthinkable.

The Mount of Olives was already consecrated as a Jewish grave-site in pre-First Temple days 3,000 years ago. It still serves that purpose.

The only break was during the 19 years of Jordanian conquest between 1948 and 1967. Not only were Jews barred entry (in brazen contravention of armistice treaty obligations), but ancient, irreplaceable tombstones were ripped out and used for the construction of roads, army barracks and – underscoring the intent to defile, desecrate and humiliate – as walls and floors of public latrines.

The Jewish return to an indisputably Jewish site – the final resting place for a pantheon of spiritual, cultural and national paragons – is what world opinion and the Arabs now decry as “occupation.” But the Jewish state must not subscribe to inimical distortion.

Visitors should not fear for their lives at any cemetery anywhere in Israel, but all the more so at the oldest continuously used burial ground on earth.


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