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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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How Archaeology Boosted Jewish Nationalism


The synagogue was uncovered in the fields of a kibbutz by Jewish laborers redeeming the land. Within the space of a few weeks the kibbutz workers had uncovered a dramatic, direct link with their Jewish forbears who had lived and labored in that very place. Shared history was made concrete. Territorial claim was legitimized, and a nation was transfixed. The importance of the Bet Alpha excavation cannot be overstated. It was a watershed event and the mosaic has become a Zionist icon.

With the pre-state foundations laid, the new state came to a more formal juncture where it had to choose the symbols that would express Israeli culture and political hegemony. When Israel was established, the common bond of the people was their history, religion and the land. This relationship was embodied in archaeology. The artifacts from archaeological excavations were used to convey that common bond.

What better way to accomplish this than to take the symbols discovered in archaeological excavations and place them on stamps and currency – where everyone would see them and through which the new state could express its pride in its glorious past?

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