The Battle Over the Temple Mount
The greatest threat to the hopes of those who think parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up in the city, but rather when Jews start digging into the ground of East Jerusalem. Because the more the history of the city is uncovered, the less credible becomes the charge that Jews are alien colonists in what the media sometimes wrongly refer to as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab” Jerusalem.
That’s the upshot from the release of an amazing archeological dig conducted just outside Jerusalem’s Old City. The excavations conducted by archeologist Eilat Mazar in the Ophel area revealed a section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem. According to the press release from the Hebrew University, under whose auspices the project was carried out, the dig uncovered the wall as well as an inner gatehouse for entry into the royal quarter of the ancient city and an additional royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse as well as a corner tower. While ancient buildings are not uncommon in the city, the significance of this discovery is the fact that these edifices can be dated to the 10th century before the Common Era — the time of King Solomon, credited by the Bible for the construction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Pottery found at the lowest levels of the dig is dated to this era.
Even more telling is the fact that bullae — seal impressions — with Hebrew names were found, as well as seal impressions on jar handles inscribed with the words “to the king,” which means they were employed by the Israelite state in that time. Inscriptions on the jars, which Mazar says are the largest ever found in Jerusalem, showed them to be the property of a royal official.
Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman funded the dig. They are a New York couple whose funding is supporting both the dig and the preservation of the site for public viewing as part of the national park that exists around the Old City walls. You can view pictures of the site here.
The significance of this extraordinary find is that it provides new proof of the existence and power of the Davidic monarchy, the Israelite state that it led, and the more than 3,000-year-old Jewish presence in Jerusalem. These new discoveries, along with those of a previous dig in a different area of the city of David, contradict contrary Palestinian claims that the Jews have no claim to the area. They also debunk the assertions of some Israeli archeologists who have sought to portray the kingdom of David and Solomon as an insignificant tribal group and not the regional empire that the Bible speaks about. Indeed, Mazar believes that the strength and the form of construction required to build these structures correlates with biblical passages that speak of Solomon’s building of a royal palace and of the Temple with the assistance of master builders from Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon). Moreover, contrary to those who speak of the Jewish presence in the city as a passing phase in ancient times, the discovery of Jewish seals, which speak directly of an Israelite state, proves that what Mazar has found are not the remains of a Jebusite fort conquered by the Jews but rather of a great city built by David and his son Solomon.
While finding ancient Jewish artifacts as well as the traces of Solomon’s city in Jerusalem may seem nothing out of the ordinary, for the last century and a half, a great many academics and intellectuals have attempted to put down the existence of the ancient Jewish kingdom — which has always served as a symbol of Jewish nationhood — as a religiously inspired fiction. This deconstruction of both biblical literature and history has sought to undermine the very idea of the historical truth about ancient Israel, as well as the notion that Jewish nationhood had its roots in the past. This has been put to use by anti-Zionists and Arabs who have thought that if they could destroy the idea of King David’s existence as a historic figure, they could delegitimize modern Israel. Thus, Palestinian propagandists and the Palestinian Authority itself, which has steadfastly denied any Jewish connection to the Old City, the Temple Mount, or even the Western Wall, have copied revisionist scholarly work doubting Jewish history and incorporated that work into their negotiating position about the city’s future. The Muslim religious authority that controls the site of the Temple Mount has vandalized the area, destroying a treasure trove of antiquities in the ancient place because its officials fear that any find revealing the Jewish origins of the place will undermine their fallacious claims that seek to portray Jews as foreign occupiers in their own ancient capital.
It serves the purposes of the enemies of modern Israel to pretend that there is no such thing as biblical history or an ancient kingdom of Israel. But what Eilat Mazar and her colleagues have done is to illustrate once again just how deep the roots of Jewish Jerusalem run. Three thousand years.