web analytics
July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

How Archaeology Boosted Jewish Nationalism


Collectors have long recognized that Israel uses archaeology on stamps, coins and currency to advance its political and nationalist goals. Actually, while archaeology in recent years has declined as a mechanism that helps shape Israeli national identity, it has, at the same time, grown both as a discipline and in the way it is practiced in Israel.

My new book illustrates this pervasive early use and recent decline and sheds light on how archaeology found its way – through stamps, coins and currency – into the daily lives of Israelis.

In the summer of 1997 I came to Israel to participate in the first season of excavations at Tel Rehov with Professor Amichai Mazar. Two years later I began studying archaeology with Professor Israel Finkelstein at Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology. During my studies at Tel Aviv University I participated as an excavator, assistant registrar, assistant area supervisor and area supervisor in a number of archaeological excavations including Tel Yaffo and Tel Megiddo.

While studying in Tel Aviv I benefited from the excellent archaeological methods and practices taught by the professors, as well as the theoretical or non-practical seminars they offered.

One of these seminars was Dr. David Ilan’s “Archaeology and the Public.” This seminar came for me at a perfect time in my education. I had taken a number of the theoretical classes and found them interesting and intellectually challenging. But I had a hard time making the connection from theory to what archaeology means for the average person.

I would ask myself: How can I explain the importance of archaeology; why is archaeology important and what is its connection to everyday life? Dr. Ilan’s seminar helped me find the answer.

That answer inhered in everyday objects such as stamps, coins and banknotes.

My book demonstrates some aspects of how and why symbols and motifs from archaeology have made their way onto everyday objects. It shows that archaeology has helped create a collective identity in modern Israel through the construction of a shared past.

Most of the archaeological excavations conducted in Israel are from the Byzantine or Islamic periods. These are usually rescue excavations administered by the Israel Antiquity Authority. The five major universities conduct the majority of the large multi-national excavations and many of these excavations are from the “biblical” periods, namely the Bronze Age through the Iron Age. At universities in Israel every student studying archaeology is required to take biblical archaeology courses, even if they focus their studies on other periods.

I learned in my research that archaeology helps to substantiate territorial claims. This is an important part of the discipline of historical geography. If we can identify the places mentioned in the Bible as places that exist today, and if the Bible is our history book, then we can better claim legitimate sovereignty over them. By excavating them and confirming their identifications, that claim is made stronger.

I also found the actual physical labor involved in a dig increases the sense of ownership, as illustrated by what Professor Avi Yonah said about the case of the excavations at Bet Alpha: “Its interest lay in the fact that a Jewish village once stood on the exact site of a modern Jewish settlement of some thirteen hundred years later, providing, as it were, a kind of unofficial title-deed to the land.”

I discovered that archaeology is an important part of the nation building process. National identity requires icons and cultural signifiers, which are embedded in the collective consciousness. Archaeology provides a highly sensual, visual array of such symbols on buildings, tools, weapons, jewelry, seals, coinage, and, perhaps most important of all, it reveals to us a written script of great antiquity that has been deciphered.

I found an early example of how all of these factors came into play in the excavations of the Byzantine period synagogue at Bet Alpha in 1929, directed by Eleazar Sukenik. The story has been recounted at some length by Amos Elon and Neil Silberman, who observed, “The colorful signs of the zodiac still visible, Sukenik quickly recruited volunteer workers from among the kibbutz members, and as the days passed and the entire mosaic was gradually revealed, the excitement among them grew…. All their work now had a different significance. Their history had been uncovered, and they could see it with their own eyes.”

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “How Archaeology Boosted Jewish Nationalism”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas terrorists often misfire their rockets that explode in Gaza civilians areas.
‘Hamas Fired from UN School Area and Prevented Evacuation’ Says IDF
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF soldier injured in Gaza is evacuated by helicopter to Soroka hospital.

The residents of Gaza were not occupied by the Hamas; they voted for the terror organization in democratic elections, by a huge majority, by virtue of its uncompromising struggle against Israel. For this reason, the separation between the armed Hamas terrorists and those ‘not involved’ or ‘innocents’ is false. The Gazans are now paying for […]

Shimon Peres meets with the family of fallen IDF soldier Max Steinberg.

As Peres retires, Israel fights sour legacy: Insistence on setting policy in line with hopes, rather than with reality.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Our capital was not arbitrarily chosen, as capitals of some other nations were.

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay is calling for an investigation of Israel's military actions in Gaza. (archive photo)

UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillay accuses the IDF of possible war crimes in Gaza again, cutting slack to Hamas.

There is much I can write you about what is going here, but I am wondering what I should not write. I will start by imagining that I am you, sitting at home in the Los Angeles area and flipping back and forth between the weather, traffic reports, the Ukraine, Mexican illegals and Gaza. No […]

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

Germany’s The Jewish Faith newspaper ominously noted, “We Jews are in for a war after the war.”

The truth is we seldom explore with kids what prayer is supposed to be about.

Almost as one, Jews around the world are acknowledging the day-to-day peril facing ordinary Jews in Israel and the extraordinary service of the IDF in protecting them.

So on the one hand Secretary Kerry makes no bones about who is at fault for the current hostilities: he clearly blames Hamas.

King Solomon said it long ago: “Cast your bread upon the waters” because you don’t know when you’ll hit something. Our job is to do.

The anti-Israel camp does not need to win America fully to its side. Merely to neutralize it would radically alter the balance of power and put Israel in great jeopardy.

We mourn the dead, wish a speedy recovery to the wounded, and pray that God guides the government.

Charges from the court of world public opinion and their refutations.

More Articles from Jewish Press Staff
IDC APC covered with letters of support from children of Israel.

If you get the pun, let me know.

Ritz Carlton by the Water Herzliya

The Ritz-Carlton has taken the concept of private vacation residences in Israel to a new level.

Tomer Sargon of Netivot heard that IDF soldiers haven’t been able to bath in days, for lack of water and showering facilities out in the field. So he took it upon himself to help, by driving down to the Gaza border with a truck filled with huge water containers, just so the soldiers could have […]

Cute Frozen parody, with Selfies taken in bomb shelters in Israel. Warning: There are sirens in the video. Lyrics: Do you think that was a siren? Should we go down to the Mamad? I’m never sleeping anymore, Sticking by the door Sick of this jihad! The miklat is really smelly The neighbors too. But what […]

Hamas terrorists took over Waffa hospital in Gaza and were using it as a terror base. The IDF communicated with the medical staff to ensure no patients or staff were inside before blowing it up.

I don’t need to remind you it was a proposal that was supported by the UN, by the Arab League, by the United States, by Europe.

Col. Rasan Alian, commander of the Golani Brigade, was wounded while fighting Hamas in Gaza. On July 22, he returned to his troops after recovering in Israel.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/how-archaeology-boosted-jewish-nationalism/2009/12/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: