Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Spectacular Ancient Jewish Findings in Ir Dovid — the Lower Hill of Jerusalem

by M. Samsonowitz

Ir Dovid (also known as Silwan after the Arab village that is there), is the mountain ridge that drops away sharply immediately to the south of the Dung Gate. It is located between the Kidron that lies to its east and the Gei ben Hinom valley to its west. This relatively small 14-acre area was the location of the ancient Jewish capital of Jerusalem for close to a thousand years during the Bayis Rishon and Bayis Sheini eras.

Across the valley to the east of Ir Dovid is Har Hazeisim. North and west of it is Har Zion. Due north is Har Hamoriah (later called Har Habayis), and farther to the south is the Armon Hanetziv mountain ridge.

In recent years, a number of Jewish developers have been reclaiming Ir Dovid. Owned and settled originally by Jews, the Arabs began to move in to the area after the Arab pogroms in 1936 caused the Yemenite Jews who had lived there to flee. Although even today the land is mostly owned by Jews, the residents until a few years ago were mostly Arab squatters. Now, due to the reclamation project of the last few years, hundreds of Jews are living in Ir Dovid, and a kollel and kindergarten are flourishing there.

As part of their agenda to reclaim the land and settle Jews there, the developers have been carrying on extensive excavations to discover the treasures which lie deep in the ground. The past months have brought to the fore some spectacular discoveries which connect to ancient Jewish history and at times sound like a page right out of Tanach.

Canaanite Times

The earliest reference that we have to this site is that it was ancient Shalem, a small Canaanite town, ruled by Malkitzedek who was Sheim ben Noach.

The little town existed with the help of a small spring in the valley at the bottom of the east side of the mountainside called the Gichon ("spurting out"). The citizens hewed an underground tunnel which led to the water source, whose rocky incline they would descend with pitchers on their shoulders to bring water to their small one-room homes. The continuation of this tunnel to the spring was discovered by excavations in 1995. The tunnel emerges close to the spring source, where it is protected by a massive fortress built at the foot of the mountain. The average stones reinforcing the fortress weigh 4-5 tons, while the largest stone so far discovered is 13 tons. This is an amazing engineering feat for those ancient times.

The Gichon occupies an illustrious place in Jewish history. Not only did this spring water serve the city of Jerusalem, but it is reputed to be the first place where Odom Horishon immersed himself after being sent out of Gan Eden and the place where he pleaded that Hashem accept his teshuvoh (Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer 20).

Avram and Sheim

Avram, his servant Damesek Eliezer, and 316 servants and members of his household were returning to their residence in Chevron after having smitten Kedorlo'omer and his allies from Mesopotamia. A long train of captives from Sodom whom they had liberated straggled after them, while a train of donkeys and camels carried the immense booty which had been recovered from the marauders. They plodded through the Canaanite mountains of the Shomron on the West Bank of the Jordan River until they saw from afar the small city of Shalem surrounded by mountains.

Avram's very elderly ancestor of nine generations back, the righteous Sheim, was king and high priest in the city. Avram decided to visit the venerable sage.

The large crowd at the city's gates awoke the sentry's apprehension, but when he heard it was Avram with Sodomian captives returning from a successful battle against the Sumerian invaders, the sentry threw open the city gates. The news quickly spread of the victor's arrival.

The distinguished elder approached, flanked by a retinue bearing clay flasks of wine and bread for the fatigued soldiers. Rashi comments that Sheim wanted to show Avram that he bore him no resentment for having killed many of Sheim's descendants. Avram greeted his illustrious ancestor, the scholarly and righteous Malkitzedek.

The old priest had heard about his spirited descendant, Avram, who earlier had been at odds with the despotic Hamite ruler of Ur Kasdim, Nimrod, to proclaim the truth of the Creator of the Universe. He knew also that after settling in Canaan, Avram had thrown himself into spreading word of G- d's existence. The young Avram was truly a man of G-d, a worthy descendant of Odom and of Sheim's father Noach, whose trust in G-d had been fully requited in the recent military campaign.

The country was abuzz at Avram's miraculous victory with an incredibly small number of soldiers — in fact, not even trained soldiers but just the servants of his large household. No one could believe that he had prevailed over the four kings led by the invincible, fear-inspiring Kedorlo'omer. The attackers had ravaged half of Canaan and destroyed a number of power city-states, and were feared throughout the land.

Looking proudly at his noble descendant, Sheim proclaimed, "Blessed is Avram to the Supreme G-d, Who has acquired heaven and earth! And blessed is the Supreme G-d, Who has given your enemies into your hands!" Sheim then embraced Avram.

Before continuing on, Avram separated a tenth of his property and gave it as his tithe to the priest. (Bereishis 14: 9-20)

Dovid's Siege of Jerusalem

The Jebusites settled in the city after the Canaanites.

Around the year 1000 BCE, after Dovid had been appointed king over all Israel, he immediately started preparations to build the Beis Hamikdosh. He had previously been told by Shmuel Hanovi where the location would be — on Har Hamoriah, the site of the Even Shesiyoh (Foundation Stone) from which the creation of the world had commenced. It was at this site that Odom, Kayin and Hevel, and Noach had brought their sacrifices to Hashem. It was here that Avrohom had been told to sacrifice Yitzchok and where he realized that "Hashem Yeiro'eh" — on this mountain Hashem would one day be seen.

To build the Beis Hamikdosh, it was necessary to first conquer the town known than as Metzudas Zion, formerly Shalem, where the Jebusites were entrenched.

The Israelites hadn't taken the city when they had first conquered and divided up the Land of Israel, because of Avrohom's oath to Avimelech, king of Gerar in Philistia, hundreds of years before. The Jebusites, who were descendants of the Philistines, had erected in their town two statues: a blind man and a limping man (the former representing Yitzchok and the latter Yaakov) on which was written Avrohom's oath. Avrohom had promised Avimelech not to attack or wage aggression against his land as long as his children or grandchildren would be alive. During Yehoshua's times this had prevented the Israelites from conquering the city, but now, 400 years later, all of Avimelech's grandchildren were dead.

A stone wall surrounded the city, but in addition the citadel built at the top of the slope had its own terraced protective wall. To conquer the city, Dovid had to conquer the citadel.

Dovid gathered his army of 30,000 men and set out for Jerusalem. After appraising the situation, Dovid called for a volunteer to lead the attack. "First we will eliminate the two statues, and then we can commence the invasion. Whoever seeks to smite the Jebusites must reach their tzinor and destroy their idols."

Most of the commentaries say that the tzinor was the town's tower which protected the city. But in light of excavations, the question has been raised of whether the tzinor (literally "conduit") might refer to the underground shafts which supplied the city with water from the Gichon. Whoever could penetrate the underground shafts which brought the water to the city could obviously also conquer the city.

Metzudas Tzion — the citadel — was conquered, and Dovid settled it and called it "Ir Dovid." He built an assembly place near the wall and constructed houses near it. (Shmuel II 5:6-9)

First Beis Hamikdosh Era

During the First Beis Hamikdosh period (from before the actual Beis Hamikdosh was built by Shlomo Hamelech), Dovid Hamelech and his court lived in Jerusalem, which was a relatively small city. The location which is known as the "Old City" today was not settled during the First Beis Hamikdosh period and was just an empty expanse bordering the Har Habayis. It was only developed and settled during the Second Beis Hamikdosh period.

Sixty per cent of the books of the Nevi'im Rishonim and Acharonim were written within the walls of Ir Dovid. Yehoshua, Shofetim, Shmuel, Melochim, Divrei HaYomim, Megillas Rus, Shir Hashirim, Koheles, Mishlei, Megillas Eichoh, and Tehillim were all written here. It was in this small area that many of the dramatic events recounted in the Nevi'im took place.

Today, to see the source of the Gichon, you follow the stairs from the Visitors' Center (after paying the entry fee) all the way down to the valley, where the entrance to the Gichon is at the right. You follow the underground tunnel until you arrive at the Spring House, which contains ruins of the Jebusite fortress and until you reach the source of the spring.

The Gichon is also visible from one of the shafts built into the underground tunnel leading to the spring. An opening in a shaft drops 14 meters down, allowing a view of the flowing waters of the Gichon. Researchers conjecture that it was either at this spot at the top of the shaft or at the source of the Gichon itself that Shlomo was anointed king by Tzodok HaKohen.

The twilight of Dovid's life was the background for one of the most dramatic events that occurred here. Dovid's son Adoniyohu took advantage of his father's infirmity to proclaim himself king. Backed by army general Yoav ben Tzeruyah, Evyosor HaKohen and some of the other sons of Dovid, Dovid's son Adoniyohu arranged a honor guard of horses, chariots, and 50 runners to go before him and proclaim him king. The crowds surrounding him shouted, "Long live King Adoniyohu!" and went to offer sacrifices to Hashem.

Not called to the celebration were Prince Shlomo, Tzodok HaKohen, Nosson the Novi and Benoyohu ben Yehoyodo, who were the king's closest advisors.

Nosson took action and called Batsheva the queen, mother of Shlomo, to defend her son's right to the throne. She stood before Dovid and told him how Adoniyohu had proclaimed himself king and had invited a large crowd, leaving out Dovid's closest advisors, despite knowing that Shlomo was the crown prince. Dovid was galvanized into action. He commanded that Shlomo be placed on the King's mule and brought to the Gichon spring, accompanied by Tzodok, Nosson, Benoyohu, and the sages of the Sanhedrin.

There, Tzodok took out a horn of oil and anointed Shlomo the next king. The crowd played flutes blew on shofars, and shouted, "Long live King Shlomo!" The thunderous clamor reverberated all over the mountain.

The immense echo which the valley gave off between the mountains was heard in nearby Ein Rogel where Adoniyohu's party was feasting. Uneasy about the far-off sounds of jubilation, Adoniyohu turned optimistically to Yonoson the son of Evyosor the Cohen who had just rushed into the camp.

"Shlomo has just been anointed king and he is sitting on the king's throne!" came the breathless reply. "There is an uproar throughout the city, for his kingship was proclaimed by the Kohen Godol, Nosson the Novi, Benoyohu, and the Sanhedrin! Dovid himself has blessed Hashem for letting him live to see a worthy successor on his throne!"

Hearing the news, all of Adoniyohu's supporters vanished and Adoniyohu was left alone. He fled to the Altar and grabbed its "horns" and declared that he would not leave it without a promise of clemency from King Shlomo.

King Shlomo, a mere 12-year old, answered with steely composure, "If he shows himself a worthy man, not a hair of his will fall to the ground. But if he is planning evil, he will die."

Adoniyohu left the altar and bowed down before King Shlomo, thereby acknowledging him as the uncontested ruler of the kingdom (Melochim I 1:5-52).

Most people who visit Ir Dovid usually start at the Visitors' Center, where they can get a clear view of the Kidron Valley and the Arab homes in Silwan located opposite Ir Dovid. They can check out for themselves the powerful echo which can be heard far away when shouting in the direction of Silwan.

Rabbi Yishmoel Cohen Godol's Mikveh

Recent excavations show that the staircase which leads down to the Gichon spring source, continues underneath the spring. This newly-discovered ancient staircase opens into a private room whose entrance had a doorpost and hinge dating back to the Second Beis Hamikdosh.

It is believed that this room is what was referred to in sefer Zichron Yerushalayim (written three centuries ago): "And there [near the Gichon] is a large and deep mikveh which is called, `the mikveh of Rabbi Yishmoel Cohen Godol.' "

We have no ancient sources which indicate that Rabbi Yishmoel, one of the Asoroh Harugei Malchus, actually had a private mikveh, but it is clear that this room was used as a mikveh during the Second Beis Hamikdosh.

The developers are planning to break through the wall separating the room from the Gichon, so that once again the Gichon spring will flow into the room and it can again be used as a mikveh.

The Kidron Valley

The Kidron Valley looks pastoral and provincial today, but in many tragic periods of our people's past it was the site of dreadful and fear-inspiring scenes, where massacres of tens of thousands of victims took place.

On one day in the fifth century BCE, the beleaguered Jews in Jerusalem awoke to find the valley flooded with Babylonian soldiers who swarmed over the grounds like an ants. Their spears and swords glinted in the air, and this time, after carrying into exile only a small number of noble Jewish families 11 years earlier, the Babylonian ruler Nevudchanetzar promised the destruction of Jerusalem.

A 20-meter remnant of the entire old wall which protected Jerusalem can still be seen today going down to the Kidron Valley. It was constructed on the mountain bedrock, showing that it was constructed from at least the First Beis Hamikdosh period. It is located below the entrance to the underground tunnel. The stones are large, weighing between 4 and 5 tons each.

King Dovid's Palace

In the past two months, the results of two new excavations have been announced, that include immense findings, laden with Jewish history. One dig, headed by archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, explored the ruins of a huge public building close to the Dung Gate dating back to the 10th century BCE. She believes that it is the remains of King Dovid's palace, or perhaps even the earlier Zion citadel that Dovid conquered.

At the Visitors' Center, visitors can get a peep at the excavations going on, despite the green tarpaulin covering the area.

Dr. Mazar found that the foundations for this monumental building were walls two yards thick and at least 30 yards long. On the bedrock is a large floor of crushed limestone, indicating a large public space. Many of the pottery shards date back to the First Beis Hamikdosh and even earlier.

Dr. Mazar conjectures that the basement room of this building served as an archives. One particularly spectacular finding in a corner of the basement room was a clay seal containing the name of Yuchal ben Shelemyohu, one of King Tzidkiyohu's advisors. On the clay seal his grandfather's name, Shavi, is also given. He is mentioned as an antagonist of Yirmiyohu who had the novi thrown in a dungeon because he was destroying the Israelites' morale and resistance through his frightening prophecies of the upcoming Churban (Yirmiyohu 38: 1-6).

Just below the presumed palace are the ruins of another large building which the archaeologists call the House of Achiel (because a shard of pottery containing the name Achiel in ancient Hebrew writing was discovered) which was excavated in the 1970s. This edifice is believed to be an important government building or part of the royal quarters. The Babylonians entered this building when they broke though the city walls on 9 Tammuz. During excavations of ruins adjoining Achiel House, numerous Israelite and Babylonian arrowheads and ashes were found, indicating a fierce battle. The house also contained 53 bullae (seals) in it, including one containing the name of Tzidkiyohu's secretary Gemaryohu ben Shofon, who is mentioned in sefer Yirmiyohu (36:10).

When Jerusalem was burnt down by the Babylonians, the letters bearing these seals were destroyed, but the clay seals themselves became hardened by the fire. When the exiles returned to rebuild Jerusalem during the Second Beis Hamikdosh period, they built the new city over the previous city's ruins, leaving these silent witnesses of history to hibernate over millennia until they were discovered by our generation.

The Large Water Cistern — or Yirmiyohu's Dungeon?

Near the area assumed to be Dovid's palace was found an unusually large water cistern which collected rain water in the winter and served the city's residents for a large part of the summer. Excavations have shown that this cistern was used through several eras going back to the First Beis Hamikdosh era and may have been the royal family's private cistern.

The cistern has a 10-meter diameter, and is seven meters deep, dimensions which are ten times larger than a typical cistern. Experts say that this cistern probably could have served well over 200 people.

The unusual dimensions of this cistern suggested that this may have been the courtyard dungeon into which Yirmiyohu was thrown by his enemies in the government. "Then they took Yirmiyohu and cast him into the pit . . . that was in the court of the prison . . . and in the pit there was no water, only mud, and Yirmiyahu sunk in the mud." (Yirmiyohu 38:6).

In Jerusalem, the water supply in the cisterns usually lasted until midsummer, by which time the top layers of water have already been used up and only mud is left at the bottom. As recently as the middle of the last century, Yerushalmi youths would descend into their family cisterns at the end of the summer to clean out the mud and debris that had accumulated over the previous months.

Chizkiyohu Protects Jerusalem's Water Supply

After Dovid conquered the city, the Israelites had lived calmly and securely in Jerusalem. With the Assyrian invasion during Chizkiyohu's times, this period of security came to a brutal and abrupt end. Years earlier, the Ten Tribes were conquered and taken into exile. And now the Assyrian hordes were at the gates of Jerusalem.

Maintaining the city's water supply had always been a critical concern for whoever ruled the city. The original Jebusites had built a fortress at the bottom of their city which protected access to the Gichon spring, and they dug underground tunnels to reach it.

In King Chizkiyohu's times, around the year 700 BCE, further measures were taken to protect the water supplies. It was decided to divert the Gichon Spring to a pool in the southwest side of the city which was better protected from enemy attack. "He stopped the upper watercourse of the Gichon and brought it straight down to the west side of Ir Dovid." (Divrei Hayomim II 32:30).

Two teams of Chizkiyohu's engineers began digging into solid rock, one from the top of the city, and the other from the bottom, where the Gichon was located. The engineers dug a 50 cm canal underground for 533 meters, until both teams met at the same spot and connected the canal. Today, we do not know how Chizkiyohu accomplished this wondrous feat — for the two tunnels to meet up — with the knowledge and tools available to him at his time. It is all the more wondrous since the canal was not straight but is winding and curvy.

The engineers left an engraving: "The tunneling was completed . . . While the hewers wielded the ax, each man toward his fellow . . . and with three more cubits to dig, there was heard a man's voice calling to his fellow . . . The hewers hacked toward each other, ax against ax, and the water flowed from the spring to the pool, a distance of 1,200 cubits . . . "

(This inscription was hacked out of its place on the wall by Arab antique smugglers a century ago, and confiscated by Turkish authorities. Today it is on display in an Istanbul museum.)

This tunnel was rediscovered over a century ago. It is still filled with water as high as mid-calf and at certain points above one's knees. Today wading through this tunnel takes 45 minutes, and a flashlight is absolutely necessary to see in the pitch darkness.

The tunnel ends in a knee-deep water basin which was created during the Byzantine period, and which was known over the centuries. The ancient Byzantine Shiloach Church was previously located in this place and its former location is still marked by broken pillars. The area contains rich flora, and orchards of figs, pomegranates and other fruit still grow there.

Freshwater Pool From Alexander Yannai's Times

An impressive pool which was a freshwater reservoir built during the Second Beis Hamikdosh was only discovered several weeks ago. It is believed that the reservoir was a major gathering place for Jews who were olei regel to the city.

The pool has three tiers of stone stairs allowing easy access to the water. This pool was built early in the 1st century BCE and was destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus about 70 CE.

The pool was discovered by a repair team excavating a damaged sewer line last fall under the supervision of Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority. As soon as Shukron saw two steps uncovered, he stopped the work and called in his colleague Reich, who was excavating at the Gichon Spring.

When they saw the steps, Shukron said, "We were 100 percent sure that it was the ancient Shiloach Pool."

This pool was used extensively by Jerusalem citizens and olei regel throughout the Second Beis Hamikdosh period and it is speculated that it was built on the ruins of an earlier pool that existed in the First Beis Hamikdosh era.

With winter approaching, the two men had to hurry their excavation so that the modern sewer could be repaired before the rainy season.

As they began digging they uncovered three groups of five stairs each, separated by narrow landings. The pool was about 225 feet long, and they unearthed steps on three sides.

It is so far unknown how wide and deep the pool was, because excavations were not completed. The fourth side lies under a lush garden behind a Greek Orthodox Church, and the team has not yet received permission to cut a trench through the garden.

The pool's creation can be precisely dated because of two fortunate occurrences that left unique artifacts in the pool area.

When ancient workmen were plastering the steps before facing them with stones, they either accidentally or deliberately buried four coins in the plaster. All four are coins of Alexander Yannai, a Jewish king who ruled Yerushalayim from 103 to 76 BCE. That provides the earliest date at which the pool could have been constructed.

As for the date of the pool's destruction, they found a dozen coins dating from the Churban of the Second Beis Hamikdosh (66-70 CE) in the soil buildup in one corner. That indicates that the pool had begun to be filled in by that time.

Because the pool sits at one of the lowest spots in Ir Dovid, rains flowing down the valley deposited mud into it each winter. After the pool was no longer being cleaned out, because of the Churban, it quickly filled with dirt and disappeared from public awareness.

Now, more than ever before, one can sense and bring Tanach to life by walking on the stones and pathways where our ancestors lived the great events which we, their descendants, are still studying about from the holy writings they left us.

Debating the Finds

This summer, the excavations at the top of the City of Dovid slope were accompanied with much excitement. Dr. Eilat Mazar, the archaeologist in charge of the site, believes that what they found could be the palace that King Dovid built after conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites.

The excavation was conducted by the Shalem Center, under the academic auspices of Hebrew University, and in collaboration with Elad, the nonprofit association that owns the land on which the City of Dovid Visitors' Center is built.

The excavation took place in a rectangular strip 10 meters wide by 30 meters long, and the structure that has been unearthed occupies the entire site, and extends beyond its boundaries. It is constructed from immense stones that served as the foundation of a palace. The stones were placed on an earthen landfill in which hundreds of broken pieces of pottery were found, mainly cooking pots. Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and a researcher at Hebrew University, states that the pottery can be dated to the 12th and 11th centuries BCE, to the Jebusite period, which immediately predates Dovid's reign.

The large structure might be a palace, temple or fortress, says Mazar. Her analysis has led her to conclude that it is a palace. "There have been those who contended there was no evidence of public construction in 10th century BCE Jerusalem," says Mazar. "Based on this, they claim that Dovid and Solomon were not important rulers, as described in the Bible. Now we have found evidence of such construction, and those who minimize the importance of Dovid and Solomon have to deal with the facts. In an out-of-the-way and remote settlement you would not find a structure like this, the construction of which required abundant resources and a great capacity to plan and execute."

The excavation site has not turned up evidence of ritual practices. Therefore, the possibility that the structure was a temple seems faint.

"According to the Bible [II Samuel, 5], Dovid conquered a fortress and then built a palace outside the boundaries of the Jebusite city," says Mazar. In other words, the palace was not built atop the ruins of another structure, but was the first building erected on its site. "Throughout the entire excavation site, there is no sign of a wall built before the 10th century BCE," she says. "The construction that we found was a complicated and intricate engineering operation that required immense resources. This is the kind of step that one would expect of a new ruler who wants to turn the city he conquered into his permanent residence, and who has an exceptional vision of the future development of the city."

The structure that has been unearthed is indeed monumental. It is built atop an 11th century BCE floor, and on top of it are destruction layers dated to the end of the First Temple period. Based on this, it is very reasonable that it is a structure from the 10th or 9th century BCE.

Dr. Mazar admits that so far it is difficult to determine when exactly the palace was built. But the monumental construction significantly reinforces the view that Jerusalem of that time was the capital city of a kingdom, and not merely a small, unimportant settlement, as some historians and archaeologists contend. So far, however, they are unconvinced by the new findings, arguing that it may be from a later date when they agree that Jerusalem became important.

An Identifiable Seal

About two weeks before the end of the excavation season, a rare find was unearthed in one of the structure's rooms: a bullae, a round clay seal about one centimeter in diameter, in which its owner's name was inscribed. She realized that the inscription — three lines in a Hebrew script characteristic of the late First Temple period — contained the name of Yuchal ben Shelemyohu ben Shavi, who is mentioned twice in the Book of Yirmiyohu.

He was a senior minister in the government of Tzidkiyohu. He is mentioned in Yirmiyohu 37:3 as one of two emissaries sent by King Tzidkiyohu to Yirmiyohu, asking him to pray for the people during the siege of Nevudchanetzar. Chapter 38 tells that Yuchal was one of four ministers who recommended to the king to kill Yirmiyohu, after which the prophet was thrown into a clay-filled pit.

A New Site near the Kosel

Another underground site near the Kosel was also opened a few weeks ago, in the Kosel tunnels whose original opening sparked Palestinian rioting nearly a decade ago.

The exhibits include a mikveh from the period of the Second Beis Hamikdosh, and a wall that archaeologists say dates to the First Beis Hamikdosh.

The new tourist center snakes underground, adjacent to the path of the Western Wall, the last remaining retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Visitors will be presented with a sound and light show of Jewish biblical history, highlighting recent discoveries of artifacts and infrastructure dating back thousands of years, including one of the world's oldest aqueducts.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, said he was not concerned that violence would erupt after Israel opens the site because it does not extend underneath the mosque compound.

The Chareidim and the Archaeologists

Other things being equal, the chareidi community has a very natural interest in the findings of archaeology. The religious community in general has a very extensive and intimate relationship with its forebears, and is thus eager to hear about any new information that has been found. Any new information that we learn about our great and holy ancestors should help to bring us closer to them, which will surely be to our benefit.

It was very unfortunate that the Archaeological Authority in Israel was headed for many years by Amir Drori, a very anti- religious person. A very competent bureaucrat, he extended the power of the archaeologists over development and created a very strong Authority. He also took every opportunity to clash with our community, digging up the remains of our ancestors all over the country and creating very negative associations about archaeologists for chareidim.

Under his successor the relationship has been much calmer and there have been fewer conflicts. However that should not be understood to mean that there are no problems. The activists in this area have to be as vigilant as ever, but they can often resolve the issue through quieter means.


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