A 2,700-year-old Hebrew inscription on stone that describes the Pool of Siloam and the City of David that was allegedly going to be returned to Israel by Turkey, isn’t going to leave the Istanbul Archaeology Museum after all.
A senior Israeli official quoted by the Times of Israel last week said Turkey had agreed to return the Siloam Inscription to Israel as a good will gesture following a meeting between Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Details of the deal were reportedly worked out between Israeli and Turkish senior officials and were not discussed between Herzog and Erdogan.
In return, Israel reportedly offered to send Turkey a valuable historical and religiously significant item from an Israeli museum – but there was no confirmation of the deal from Turkey.
Now, Turkish officials say the report is “false” and are denying there was any agreement.
Turkish diplomatic sources quoted by Anadolu Agency on Sunday said the part of Jerusalem where the inscription was found in 1880 was part of the Ottoman territories at the time, and it is “currently a part of Palestinian territories; thus, it was out of the question to return it to Israel, a third country in Turkey’s view,” according to the Daily Sabah news outlet, a mouthpiece for the Ankara government.
“Israel is at odds with the Palestinian administration over the control of East Jerusalem and the decision of the United States and several other countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem, in a move to recognize it as Israel’s capital, which stirred up outcry in Turkey,” the Daily Sabah reported.
One of the oldest and most important ancient Hebrew inscriptions in existence, the text verifies the Biblical account of the building of the tunnel that brought water from the Pool of Siloam to the City of David during the reign of King Hezekiah.
Turkey has long insisted the tablet is the property of the Ottoman Empire that ruled Jerusalem from 1516 to 1917. “It was registered as property of the Ottoman Empire and under legal status belongs to the Republic of Turkey,” the Daily Sabah reported.
There have been repeated attempts by Israel to persuade Turkey to return the stone tablet, all of which have failed.
The inscription’s “legal status” as property of Turkey would not, of course, preclude its being presented as a gift to Israel as a sign of warming ties — if the country’s president chose to do so.
Clearly, however, he has not.