The Stones Cry Out: Archaeology and the Jewish Connection to the Land

May 12, 2020

by: Kathy DeGagne, BFP Staff Writer

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The Jewish connection to the Land has ancient roots, first birthed when Abraham came to the place where God led him, and then thoroughly established the moment Joshua and the Children of Israel set foot on Canaan’s soil.

God placed His name upon the Land and marked it as His own. Then He gave it to Abraham’s posterity in an everlasting covenant. Those footsteps on the land 4,000 years ago are forever seared into Israel’s soil. There the Jewish people bled, toiled and grew deep roots. Even during the periods when they were forcibly exiled, they yearned to return to the land of Zion. The historic attachment to their homeland continues to be affirmed in their songs, prayers—and in Israel’s ancient stones.

Archaeological Evidence

The Palestinians have spent decades trying to erase Israel’s historic connection to the Land and attempting to assert their sovereignty with war and acts of terror. Israel is the illegitimate “occupier” of the land and the Jews were never there, they say. Though the international community has swallowed the false Palestinian narrative—hook, line and sinker—the archaeological evidence of its Jewish ownership is being unearthed in every corner of Israel. Jews were here for 4,000 years; they settled from the Negev in the south to Mount Hermon in the north, and from the Golan to the Mediterranean. They built their homes and their synagogues and left their indelible mark in the ground.

Maybe a desire to affirm the Jewish right to the land explains why so many Israelis are eager to participate in Israel’s archaeology digs. Ordinary citizens, school-age children and Israel’s young soldiers get involved in the process of excavating sites with the encouragement and oversight of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Ordinary Israelis just out for their daily walk have uncovered many significant finds—not so surprising when you consider the remains of ancient civilizations lie just beneath their feet.

Under Jerusalem

Nowhere in Israel is that wealth of archaeological evidence more pronounced than in Jerusalem. Recently, archaeologists working in the City of David uncovered an ancient thoroughfare called the Pilgrimage Road, a wide-stepped limestone staircase ascending to the Temple Mount from the Pool of Siloam. Thousands of Jewish pilgrims from the first century AD flocking to Jerusalem for the three great pilgrimage feasts ritually washed in the pool at the base of the City of David, then made their way up the road to worship at the Temple.

Beneath the Pilgrimage Road is a massive drainage channel, discovered after the Pool of Siloam was unearthed. Rebels of the Jewish Revolt (AD 66–70) went underground and hid in this drainage channel as Roman soldiers sacked Jerusalem. From the drainage channel and the road, archaeologists unearthed an oil lamp, a ring inlaid with a blue stone, a decorative table in fragments, a golden bell that had fallen from the hemline of a priestly garment, cooking pots, stone vessels, a table used to measure liquids and a child’s drawing of a menorah (seven-branched candelabra).

Thousands of coins inscribed with the words “For the freedom of Zion” were also discovered, a moving testimony that the inhabitants of Jerusalem still hoped beyond hope that they would be victorious in defending their homeland against the Roman legions.

Ze’ev Orenstein, director of International Affairs at the City of David Foundation, said, “These findings show that the connection between the Jewish people and the ancient City of Jerusalem is a matter of fact and not a matter of faith.”

Sealing the Deal

Other discoveries in the City of David are rather smaller but no less impressive. An extensive collection of tiny clay bullae (seal impressions) that seal official documents have been found in the excavations. In the spring of 2019, a 2,600-year-old bulla inscribed with the name “Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” was discovered in the excavations of the old Givati parking lot in the City of David. Nathan-Melech was an official who served King Josiah, and his name is found in the Bible in 2 Kings 23:11. It is just one of the many bullae from the First Temple period (1000–587 BC) that have been unearthed in the vicinity and are inscribed with the Hebrew names of court administrators from the kingdom of Judah. The fact that the personal seal of a court official to King Josiah has been brought to light is of immense importance to the truth of the historic Jewish narrative in the Land.

Sifting the Soil

A Second Temple coin from the Jewish revolt against the Roman legions

One of the most absurd fictions that Palestinian leaders present to the world is that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, a story easily refuted by archaeology alone. Although archaeologists aren’t allowed to dig on the Temple Mount,

the Muslim Waqf (religious authority) illegally removed massive amounts of earth from the Mount and dumped it in the Kidron Valley. Archaeologists believed the discarded soil contained too many important artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods to just let it lay in a heap. They were right. Volunteers and archaeologists of the Temple Mount Sifting Project have recovered over half a million artifacts to date.

Some notable finds include a 2,700-year-old First Temple clay seal inscribed with the name of a priestly family mentioned in the book of Jeremiah, 6,000 coins from the Second Temple period and stunning geometric stone floor tiles that paved King Herod’s Temple Mount.

Though many archaeologists are leery of promoting a national narrative with their work, the ancient stones seem to have a voice of their own. Who owns the Holy Land? Strong archaeological evidence continues to agree with the historical and biblical record. Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

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