This year Israel received a wonderful New Year’s (Rosh Hashanah) gift from a team of archeologists led by Eilat Mazar.
She announced that, at the foot of the Temple Mount, the team had found a large gold medallion, “remarkably well kept and glittering,” with reliefs of a seven-branched menorah, a shofar, and a Torah—timeless fundaments of Judaism well familiar in Israel and much of the Jewish world today.
The medallion was in a fabric bag; along with it was another fabric bag containing 36 gold coins and other artifacts.
Mazar assessed that the medallion and coins were abandoned in 614 CE, the year of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem. She added:
The position of the items…indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground, while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor. …
[T]he most likely explanation is that the findings were earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue at a location that is near the Temple Mount. …
What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful, and its owners couldn’t return to collect it.
Mazar believes the medallion was an ornament for a Torah scroll, which would make it “the earliest such archeological find in history.” As for the coins, an Israeli expert said they “can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the 4th century CE to the early 7th century CE.”
Also this year Mazar’s team discovered the oldest known inscription in Jerusalem—from around 1000 BCE at the time of King David, a period of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. The medallion, however, comes from almost half a millennium after the loss of Jewish sovereignty and attests to the ongoing attachment to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
An attachment that continued up to the astounding restoration of Israel in our era.
And yet, as the archeological evidence of Jews’ presence in Jerusalem and Israel keeps growing, so does the campaign to deny that such a presence ever existed.
The campaign encompasses the Arab world and much of the Muslim world, and is especially intense among the Palestinians, even amid yet another round of ostensible peace talks.
For instance, in an earlier round of peace talks in 2000, the then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said that the Temple—which was the focal point of Jewish worship for a thousand years—was never in Jerusalem at all but, rather, in Nablus.
A few years earlier Palestinian historian Jarid al-Kidwa did him one better by saying:
The stories of the Torah and the Bible did not take place in the Land of Israel—they occurred in the Arabian peninsula, primarily in Yemen. The identity of our father Ibrahim [Abraham] who is mentioned in the Koran is clear. From the Koran’s description of him it arises that he lived in the southern Hejaz [Saudi Arabia], near Mecca.
The campaign very much continues in the present, and Palestinian Media Watch has been recording it in detail.
For instance, on June 28 this year the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported:
In an announcement published yesterday the [Israeli Arab] Al-Aqsa Institute for Islamic Trusts and Heritage rejected claims of an expert from the so-called “Israeli Antiquities Authority.” [The expert] said that archeological finds such as stones, jewelry and seals have been discovered in the area of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and claimed that they are Hebrew “archeological finds” from what he falsely called the First and Second Temple periods.
The Institute warned against these lies and myths and said that they are figments of imagination. … It emphasized that the Canaanite Arabs were the first to settle and build Jerusalem. They named it Jebus and lived there uninterruptedly for thousands of years. [The Al-Aqsa Institute added that] the Islamic period in Jerusalem lasted for 14 centuries, and as to the Hebrews or “Jews”—for years they lived there only as passersby.
And on December 1 last year, on the Palestinian Authority radio program From Jerusalem, an expert on Jerusalem and lecturer on urban planning at Bir Zeit University, Dr. Jamal Amer, had this to say about Israeli excavations on the Temple Mount:
This is clear-cut destruction…of Arab Islamic Palestinian antiquities rooted in history, that all scientific circles and all researchers and anyone with expertise in Jerusalem, all affirm that this is a purely Arab civilization. … They write and chisel and attach newly-made slogans from the Torah that they fashioned with their own hands, on Islamic and Arab relics dating from 4,000 years BC, that is 6,000 years ago.
…They are the world’s masters of counterfeit. … They fabricated the Torah itself, and now they’re planting their forgeries in Palestinian earth.…
These are a scant two examples from a massive, ongoing, obsessive enterprise.
This Palestinian (and larger Arab and Muslim) campaign is aimed—again, concurrent with “peace talks”—at delegitimizing Israel as a rootless, bogus country with no real claim to existence. That is, at turning it into an international leper that steals other people’s history and fabricates its own.
That means the perpetrators of the campaign are rigorously blind to the beauty of the Jewish people’s reencounter with its roots, digging deep in long-abandoned ground and finding… itself. Peace will come when Islam as a whole can acknowledge other loci of light, all having the same source even if filtered through different prisms.