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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘archeology’

Rediscovering Hebron’s Jewish Past

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Back in the 1960s an archeologist from the United States, Prof. Philip Hammond, from the Princeton Theological Seminary, excavated in Hebron, in the area call Tel Rumeida, during the summer months of 1964, 1965, and 1966. He discovered many interesting artifacts on the south eastern side of the Tel, including the remains of walls so large and so old, that he called them “Cycloptic walls.”

Hammond’s findings were later documented by Prof. Jeffrey Chadwick of the Brigham Young University in his doctoral thesis. (See: Discovering Hebron, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, BAR 31:05, Sep/Oct 2005).

Later excavations were continued by Dr. Avi Ofer, between the years 1984-1986. He discovered what was called one of the most important archaeological finds, a tablet with writing on it, from the era preceding Abraham, probably a list of animals, perhaps utilized for sacrifice.

In 1998, archeologist Yuval Peleg literally fell into an underground room, near the present entrance into the neighborhood, where he discovered dozens of artifacts, including jars, jewelry, and other artifacts from the late Bronze era, that is, post-Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

However, perhaps the most astounding discoveries were those of Emmanuel Eisenberg, leading excavations for the Israeli Antiquities Department, in 1999. Among his finds were a 4,500 year old wall, that belonging to the early bronze era, which on a Biblical timeline is the time of Noah, and stairs, also over 4,000 years old, leading from the valley below into the ancient city of Hebron.

Eisenberg can also chalk up another amazing discovery: that of a home, 2,700 years old, from the time of King Hezekiah. In the vicinity of this home, also found were five seals, call ‘the King seals,’ bearing the impression of a bird, or a beetle, with the word ‘lemelech’ meaning ‘belonging to the King, written above the impression, and the word ‘Hebron’ in ancient Hebron, below it. These seals were embedded on the bottom of handles on clay jars containing food, to be distributed to soldiers in the then Judean army, who were fighting a war against Sancheriv, who also invaded Hebron and burned it to the ground. Stone pillars discovered at the site are stained with patches of black, which Eisenberg determined were from the remains of the fire which burned down Hebron.

The 1999 excavations revealed artifacts from 4,500 years ago, to about 1,500 years ago. One of the time periods unaccounted for is that of 3,000 years ago, when David began his reign as King of Judea in Hebron, where he ruled for 7 and a half years, before ascending to Jerusalem, establishing it as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The present understanding, was explained to us by Eisenberg, is that most probably David founded the first City of David on the highest point of Tel Hebron, an area yet to be examined.

Until now. Until Sunday of this week. A few days ago Hebron joyfully greeted back Emmanuel Eisenberg, representing the Israeli Antiquities Agency, and Dr. David ben Shlomo from the Ariel University, who are jointly heading up renewed digging on Tel Hebron. The areas presently being excavated are labeled ‘plots 52 and 53,’ on the center-south-west section of Tel Hebron. The area is between 5 to 6 Dunam, that being some 1.5 acres or 6,000 sq. meters. The time needed to complete the excavation is dependent on the findings at the site, but it is possible that they could be completed by the end of this calendar year.

These renewed excavations are tremendously exciting. The thought of uncovering the original city of David, or even his palace, is mind-boggling. Why so? Hebron is the roots of Judaism, it is the roots of all of monotheism and I also call it the very beginnings of humanity. That being the beginning of the end of human sacrifice, with the belief of one G-d, a Deity rejecting killing of men, women and children as a means of worship. With Abraham, mankind starts to leave the barbarity of such acts and begins praying to one G-d. This is Abraham’s legacy.

Post-Chanukah Musings at the Maccabees’ Hometown

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Late last week, as the sun was setting, I stood in the center of an archaeological ruin in the town of Modi’in, Israel, about a five-to-ten minute walk from my home. Israel has thousands of archaeological sites, some of tremendous historical and religious significance and others which will be investigated but likely bulldozed someday, as they are deemed of lesser value and standing in the way of the modern state’s progress.

What made that evening very special was the fact that it was the start of Shabbat, the seventh night of Chanukah and the site was Umm el-Umdan, containing an ancient rural village, mikveh and beit knesset, confirmed as one of the oldest ever unearthed in all of Israel, dating back to the Hasmonean Period. Given its location and dimensions, some archaeologists contend that it was very possibly the home of the Maccabees themselves. The beit knesset was unearthed in 2002 and according to the Israel Antiquities Authority the layout is similar to only a handful dating from the Second Temple period such as those discovered in Gamla and Herodium.

A large gathering of men and women from the surrounding Buchman neighborhood had entered the site. For the past several years the residents have come to this place to welcome Shabbat and pay tribute to the Maccabees. The men stood in the central part of the site, in a rectangular area that was probably the main floor of the beit knesset. In front of me was a small indentation in the stone framework surrounding the floor, perfectly positioned to accommodate an ark to hold Torah scrolls. As I looked past it, I realized that it was perfectly oriented on this hill to face Jerusalem. Our prayers began- we completed mincha and proceeded with a very beautiful kabbalat Shabbat service incorporating the music of Shlomo Carlebach.

However, it was not lost on any of us that this site has remained unmarked, undeveloped and virtually ignored by both municipal officials and our national government. Although Umm el-Umdan holds a prominently high position on the national registry of “Heritage Sites,” the only thing of note that has occurred here is that the weeds engulfing its large stones have periodically been pulled by municipal workers. The average city resident doesn’t even know the location of the site although it lies squarely along the main entry road to Modi’in from the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. In fact, as we were preparing to pray last night, a jogger came by and shouted a thank you to us, saying “I never knew this was here.”

While standing and praying in the quickly receding daylight and having great difficulty reading from my siddur, just to our right, perhaps 200 yards away, I could see Modi’in’s new pride and joy: our recently opened extreme sports park lit up as brightly as Yankee Stadium at a night game and full of skate boarders. I’ve been told that it’s the biggest and best one in the country. The juxtaposition of the two sites really struck me: all I could think of was Maccabees vs. Hellenists. Please don’t get me wrong. I love skate boards. In fact in high school back in the 1960s I owned a first generation board and used it often. I believe Israel has room for all of us, no matter what path we choose to go down.

But that’s the rub— How could we have been standing those 200 yards away on this incredibly meaningful site, in the town where the Maccabees’ efforts assured Jewish continuity and be in the dark? How could this archaeological site be so ignored and treated almost as a nuisance by the municipal government, without – aside from the weeds being plucked – a shekel having been invested in site preservation? Without a shekel spent to put up a proper historical marker acknowledging the beit knesset’s existence in our town? Without even a string of cheap light bulbs strung to allow people to pray comfortably and in safety at the site? Maybe what we have forgotten is how to be modern day Maccabean activists who need to let our countrymen know how we feel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/post-chanukah-musings-at-the-maccabees-hometown/2012/12/18/

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