Israeli Archaeologists working for the Antiquities Authority have joined the search effort for the dead and missing in burnt homes and cars after the October 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel.
The archaeologists were invited by Col. (res.) Yossi Cohen, commander of the “Sacred Labor” operation in the Gaza Division. Led by Major Rabbi Shlomo Hazut of the Gaza Division, they use the skills and knowledge they acquired investigating the remains of ancient burnt sites to identify dozens of pieces of evidence in the hope of offering a sense of certainty to the families who still don’t know the fate of their loved ones.
The archaeologists combed and sifted through the ashes for two weeks in Be’eri, Kfar Aza, and Nir Oz, as well as the contents of the vehicles from the nature party in Re’im.
Initially, the investigators, who were divided into teams, were asked to look for evidence of the missing persons who were known to have been in their homes at the time of the massacre. After it turned out that the archaeological knowledge allowed the identification of additional remains that had not been located before, it was decided that the Antiquities Authority would examine all the burned areas, including homes, storage sheds, and vehicles.
“The archaeological work methods are the same,” say members of the IAA teams, “but it’s one thing to discover the findings from a 2,000-year-old destruction, and it’s another thing altogether, heartbreaking and incomprehensible, to carry out the current task, looking for evidence of our brothers and sisters in the Gaza envelope settlements.”
Since the beginning of the scans, the archaeologists’ labor has led to the certain identification of at least ten perished individuals who were considered missing, and some of them have already been given a proper burial. The rest of the evidence was transferred to the Shura camp, the home base of the IDF Rabbinate, for further examination.
“With all the difficulty and the enormous emotional challenge, we hope to offer a sense of certainty to as many families as possible regarding the fate of their loved ones,” says Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “I salute our archaeologists for their immediate enlistment in this difficult task. This is an enormous privilege and responsibility, which they carry out with reverence.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority is also mobilized to assist in the Heritage Ministry’s activities in dozens of hotels all over the country where families that have been evacuated from danger zones are lodging.