Latest update: January 8th, 2014
One of the more interesting claims made by pro-Arab interests regarding Jerusalem is directed, of all things, against archaeological findings. A booklet explaining the Arab Peace Initiative first presented by Saudi Arabia complains that “archaeology is used to strengthen Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and hampers any possible future solution of the conflict.”
If ever there was a classic case of blaming the messenger, this one tops it. For it’s obvious that archaeologists simply reveal to us what was there all along. Since Jews lived in and governed this Holy Land for hundreds of years prior to, during, and after the First and Second Temple periods, it is quite to be expected that remnants of dynamic Jewish life would be found wherever archaeologists dig. Does the Palestinian Authority expect Israel to stop archaeological digs so that evidence of Jewish life here not be found?
Among the more interesting finds of the past few year have been:
* a building dating to the Hasmonean Period in the City of David;
* a layer of rich finds in the area of the Gihon Spring in the City of David including thousands of pieces of clay pottery, lamps and figurines, and especially a ceramic bowl with an ancient Hebrew inscription, linking us to the Jerusalemites of the end of the First Temple period;
* and part of an enormous Crusader-period hospital uncovered smack in the middle of the Old City’s Christian Quarter. Historical Latin documents from that time tell of Crusaders who made sure their Jewish patients received kosher food.
Two months earlier, 2,000-year-old evidence of the Roman siege of Jerusalem was found in the form of three cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp found in a small cistern in a drainage channel running from the Shiloah Pool to Robinson’s Arch. Just prior to that, a huge Second Temple Period quarry was exposed in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, and a mikveh from the same time was found in Kiryat Menachem in southwestern Jerusalem.
There’s still more, of course: What is now known as the “Ophel Treasure” was unearthed this past year, comprised of 36 gold coins and a large gold medallion from the year 614 CE. Found only 50 meters from the Temple Mount’s southern wall, the medallion is believed to be a Torah-scroll ornament, with images of a menorah, shofar and Torah scroll etched into it.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments on the find encapsulate the absolute insignificance of the PA claims: “This magnificent discovery attests to the ancient Jewish presence and sanctity of the place; this is as clear as the sun. [The fact that the menorah etching] is from over 500 years after the destruction of the Second Temple is historic testimony of the highest order to the Jewish People’s link to Jerusalem, its land and its heritage.”
Given the overabundance of evidence of Jewish life in the Holy Land, and especially in Yerushalayim, Arab claims regarding the history of the area are all the more absurd. Possibly most unbelievable of all is that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas actually issued a holiday greeting last month declaring that “Jesus was a Palestinian messenger.” Is it not incredible not only that he could make such a claim, but that he knew in advance that the international community – well aware that Jesus was Jewish – would accept such an illogical pronouncement with equanimity? Not even the Vatican protested.
Even if we were to assume that Abbas was merely referring to the geographical area in which Jesus lived, he still lied – for the term “Palestine” was first used to denote an official Roman Empire province 100 years after Jesus died.
In this light, let us consider Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenzied drive to reach some kind of agreement; any agreement in the world will do, from his standpoint, as long as he can avoid the label “failure.” The diplomatic fight for Jerusalem is thus in high gear, and as such, Abbas realizes that the more he denies the facts of Jewish history, the more he might be able to squeeze out of these negotiations. He and other PA spokesmen are clearly being driven to the extremes of rationality, as can be ascertained from the following quotes:
* The mufti of Jerusalem says Israel has no historical, religious, or any other rights to Jerusalem, and that the city “has been the historical, religious, cultural, and scientific capital of the Palestinians from time immemorial, the center of the Islamic world, and the focus of world civilization” (courtesy of Dr. David Bukai).
* Dr. Marwan Abu-Khalaf, director of the Archaeological Institute at Al-Quds University, argues shamelessly that “Jerusalem’s archaeological treasures emphasize the depth of the city’s heritage and history; they emphasize its Arabness and refute the Israeli claims that it is a Jewish city…. It is known that perhaps under every stone and in every corner, on every street and at every turn in Jerusalem there are relics. These relics say, ‘We are Arab, we are Muslim, we are Christian.’ ”
* Abbas has accused Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem while obliterating and robbing its “historical and religious Palestinian character” (Qatar, Feb. 2012).
* Dr. Bukai has collected a list of similarly foolish PA claims: “Abraham was not a Jew; the Jews never lived in ancient Israel; the Jews never had any connection to Jerusalem; Jerusalem was never a Jewish city; there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem; the Western Wall is not a Jewish holy site; the Tombs of Rachel and Joseph are actually Muslim sites.”
Let us address Secretary Kerry directly: As we have written before, the following two facts must always be remembered. First is that the only three national, politically independent entities in the history of the Land of Israel have been Jewish: the First Jewish Kingdom (Judges and Kings), from the times of Yehoshua bin Nun up until the destruction of the First Temple; the Second Jewish Kingdom, otherwise known as the Second Temple Period; and the modern State of Israel, since 1948.
The second fact is that Jerusalem was never the capital city of any independent regime or nation other than the above three Jewish states. PA or Arab claims to Jerusalem of any type are groundless, historically unjust, and can only have catastrophic ramifications for regional peace. The Hebrew name Jerusalem includes within it the word shalom; without Jewish Jerusalem, there can be no peace.
To help in disseminating the above, or to take part in fact-finding bus tours of Yerushalayim, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now live in Beit El.
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