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Digging for Jerusalem’s Jewish Roots

One of the consistent themes sounded by Palestinian political leaders and their official media is their contention that Jewish roots in Jerusalem and throughout the historic land of Israel is a myth. They think denying the reality of Jewish history authenticates their efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the modern-day state of Israel.

It is this disturbing trend that gives any new archeological finds in Jerusalem a political angle that is in many respects unfortunate. It is for that reason the solid scholarly work of archeologists in the city have often been attacked by Arabs and anti-Israel activists elsewhere. These activists care little about the truth but are primarily motivated by a desire to weave a fictitious historical narrative in which the Jewish presence in the country and Jerusalem is minimized if not altogether expunged.

It is in this light the unveiling of a new site showcasing the most complete excavations from the First Temple Period in Jerusalem ought to be celebrated. The site, which was inaugurated today in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, includes the area thought to be the “Water Gate” mentioned in the Bible. The site includes a watchtower, royal buildings and multiple mikvot, or ritual baths. It was discovered by the brilliant Israeli archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who also has had significant finds in the City of David. It was announced the site will soon be open to the public as part of the Davidson Center Archeological Garden.

The significance of these finds ought not to be underestimated. If this is, as Mazar believes, the area of the Water Gate mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah, then what she has found are the remnants of the walls built by King Solomon. Indeed, some of the large clay pots that were unearthed were still blackened by the fires started by the Babylonians when they destroyed the Temple.

The excavations were made possible by a gift by New York philanthropists Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, who have also supported Mazar’s excavations in the City of David, where she uncovered other amazing sites such as what may have been a royal palace dating to the era of David and Solomon.

All of this undermines the argument made not only by the Palestinians but also by some left-wing scholars that the Davidic monarchy never existed. While these findings have inestimable scholarly worth, they are also a standing rebuke to those who refer to parts of Israel’s capital as “traditionally Palestinian” or “Arab East Jerusalem.” And that is precisely why supporters of the Palestinians have attacked Mazar’s work.

Those who seek to destroy Israel understand denying the historic legacy of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem is integral to their efforts. But as Mazar has again proved, all you need to confirm Jerusalem’s Jewish roots is to start digging.


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