In Middle East, Even Archaeology Becomes Political

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

In Middle East, Even Archaeology Becomes Political


Byline: Chaya Gil

In Israel, everything is political, even archaeology. With holy sites of the three great monotheistic religions dotting the landscape, the ground beneath the Holy Land is literally full of historical artifacts dating back thousands of years, particularly in and around Jerusalem.

Archeology is not only an academic or historical pursuit in Israel, but also a kind of defense against the ridiculous charges that Jews have no connection to the land. With Arab/Muslim governments frequently claiming the Jewish state is a foreign body implanted within Islamic lands, archaeology has been used as a political tool to confirm that Israel is indeed the birthplace of the Jewish people.

The false charges are refutable in a variety of ways, but that doesn't seem to make a difference for those who wish to believe them. These extremists will use any means to delegitimize Israel, and stoke the flames of hostility toward it.

Such is the case with the latest flare-up regarding excavation and construction work just outside the Old City's Temple Mount. The Temple Mount area, managed by a Muslim religious authority, is the site of the destroyed First and Second Jewish temples, as well as two Muslim shrines: the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

A new ramp, or walking bridge, leading up to the Mughrabi Gate of the Temple Mount, will be built following the Jerusalem municipality's decision that the current temporary one - put in after the previous one partially collapsed following a snowstorm and small earthquake - was deemed unsafe.

As is standard operating procedure in Jerusalem, before construction work can begin, Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) representatives must conduct "salvage excavations" to document and rescue any antiquities discovered there. …

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