Concealing the Past

Neve Gordon · Archaeideology

Elie Wiesel is not known for his sympathy towards the Palestinian cause for self-determination. He was recently made the chairman of the board of the Elad Association, also known as the Ir David Foundation, an organisation that has been actively erasing the Palestinians’ cultural heritage and facilitating the confinement of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. In 2002, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority hired Elad to run the City of David national park, in the densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan. Elad has spent millions of dollars trying (unsuccessfully) to demonstrate King David's presence in that area.

By concentrating on unearthing the remains of the Judean kingdom, while ignoring the subsequent 3000 years, the archaeologists digging in these sites seem to have overlooked the World Archaeological Congress’s codes of ethics:

Members agree that they have obligations to indigenous peoples and that they shall abide by the following principles:

1. To acknowledge the importance of indigenous cultural heritage, including sites, places, objects, artefacts, human remains, to the survival of indigenous cultures.

2. To acknowledge the importance of protecting indigenous cultural heritage to the well-being of indigenous peoples.

According to Yoni Mizrahi, an archaeologist with the NGO Emek Shaveh, Elad is using archaeology more as a mechanism for concealing the past than as a tool for revealing it. Not a single Muslim structure has been preserved in the national park. Archaeology, Mizrahi says, is also a weapon of dispossession. Over the years almost all the green areas in Silwan have been transformed into well-guarded new archaeological sites. They are, in effect, Jewish outposts deployed to circumscribe Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.


  • 12 October 2011 at 11:00am
    hazemmalhas says:
    The World Of Archeology is aware of this, many archeologists even talk openly about lack of evidence to support the old testament stories in the Land Of Canaan. All three monolithic religions tried to destroy the Physical past one way or another to support their narrow vision of spirituality and what is right or wrong. Shame on Israel and shame on these archeologists

    • 14 October 2011 at 12:00pm
      conflated says: @ hazemmalhas
      I'm sure there's more than one rock in the Bible. The Koran too, while we're at it.

    • 18 October 2011 at 7:47pm
      Ariram says: @ hazemmalhas
      Wrong. The Siloam inscription is a passage of inscribed text originally found on the wall of the Hezekiah tunnel in Jerusalem. That tunnel was dug during the reign of the Judean King Hezekiah. The inscription was discovered in 1838 by archeologist Edward Robinson. It was removed and is now at the Istanbul museum. It is written in Hebrew, that any Israeli can read and understand. The project is mentioned in the Bible in II Kings 20:20. Here you have an archeological finding documenting an old testament story.
      The eastern area of the City of David has yielded a valuable collection of bullae (seal impressions made of clay). They were dated to the 10 century BCE. The names of officials of the kingdom, mentioned in the Bible appear on those bullae.
      Yes, many Biblical stories are legends. But archeology has found evidence documenting both events and persons from the Bible.

  • 14 October 2011 at 8:08pm
    Pennywhistler says:
    Only in England - where the religion-haters always seem to hate the Jews more.

    Not even the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, who demonstrated in front of the park a few months back -- and are being sued for libel by Elad -- has claimed that Elad "has been actively erasing the Palestinians’ cultural heritage". Probably because there isn't any Arab cultural heritage there. For that you need Palestinian propagandists.

    BTW - The ridge known as the City of David actually lies to the west of the traditional village of Silwan. Think about that.

    And how did Silwan become an Arab village?

    During the 1921 Arab riots, Jewish resident of Silwan were attacked, resulting in a few deaths and destroyed homes. In the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine many of the Jewish residents fled or were forced out of Silwan. And in 1938, the remaining Yemenite Jews in Silwan were evacuated by the British authorities. The homes of the Yemenite Jews were occupied by Arab families without compensation. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Silwan was annexed by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which expropriated land owned by the Jews.

    That's how. That's some cultural heritage.


    I love "By concentrating on unearthing the remains of the Judean kingdom, while ignoring the subsequent 3000 years ...". For some reason the folks who excavated Knossos ignored the next 3000 years of Crete's history. And for some reason the folks who unearthed Machu Pichu did not dwell on the subsequent history of Peru. Not even on the destruction of the Mayan civilization. They just unearthed Machu Pichu. But the Mayans weren't Palestinians.

    I also enjoyed "Elad has spent millions of dollars trying (unsuccessfully) to demonstrate King David’s presence in that area." This will come as news to the people who have been unearthing such evidence.

    The early excavations on the southeastern hill of Jerusalem were carried out long before this area was identified as the location of the City of David. Excavations have been carried out at the site since 1867, under four different regimes: the Ottomans, the British Mandate, the Jordanian conquest (1948-1967) and the Israeli. All of a sudden it is an issue. Only the Jews get a "shame on you". Not even the Jordanians. Not nobody else.

    The biblical account of King David's capture of the Jebusite city says that his troops not only by breached the walls, but also by climbing upwards through the ancient water system at the Gihon Spring. The Jebusite walls have been uncovered, and they date back to 1200 BCE. And just recently, the tunnels of the Gihon Spring have been found. With Hebrew graffiti on the walls. Food for thought.

    Support for dating the area to 1000 BCE comes from the discovery of a major Judean royal fortress at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The site was dated by pottery styles and by two burned olive pits tested for carbon-14 at Oxford University and found to date from between 1050 and 970 BCE -- the period most scholars consider to be during the reign of King David.

    None of this justifies Elad's very real abuses, by the way. Which would make an interesting article ... if it wasn't written by this paid propagandist.

  • 18 October 2011 at 6:49pm
    Ariram says:
    Gordon is wrong as usual. A few steps north of the City of David, he will find plenty of archeological remnants from different periods of the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem. They are all very well maintained.
    And of course he ignores the archeologists who dug in the City of David before 1967, like Kathleen Kanyon, who discovered the ancient city wall. Or Raymond Weil who dug there in 1913 finding ancient caves.
    Knowing Gordon's extreme anti-Israel attitude, nothing coming form him can surprise me.

  • 30 November 2016 at 9:40am
    bud hudnut says:
    "And for some reason the folks who unearthed Machu Pichu did not dwell on the subsequent history of Peru. Not even on the destruction of the Mayan civilization. They just unearthed Machu Pichu. But the Mayans weren’t Palestinians."

    They weren't Incas, either.

    For someone purporting to know a lot about archaeology, that's quite a gaffe. It certainly sheds an interesting light on your strident performance of expertise.

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