Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, January 2015
Zionist Israelis Failed to Find Any Support from Archaelogy to their Unfounded Ideological Claims in Palestine
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 5, 2015
The Rock of our Existence
(Keynote speech at the
FIRST OF ALL, let me thank you for inviting me to address this important conference. I am neither a professor nor a doctor. Indeed, the highest academic title I ever achieved was SEC (Seventh Elementary Class).
But like many members of my generation, from early youth I took a profound interest in archeology.
I shall try to explain why.
WHEN ASKING themselves about my connection with archeology, some of you will think about Moshe Dayan.
After the June 1967 war, Dayan was a national even international idol. He was also known for his obsession with archeology. My magazine, "Haolam Hazeh", investigated his activities and found that they were highly destructive. He started digging alone and collecting artifacts all over the country. Since the primary aim of archeology is not simply to discover artifacts but also to date them, and thus to put together a picture of the consecutive history of the site, Dayan's uncontrolled digging created havoc. The fact that he used army resources only worsened matters.
Then we discovered that not only did Dayan expropriate the artifacts which he found (which by law belonged to the state) and stock them at his home, but he had also become an international dealer, getting rich by selling articles "from the personal collection of Moshe Dayan".
Publishing these facts and speaking about them in
the Knesset bestowed on me a singular distinction. At the time, a public
opinion institute identified every year the "most hated person" in
HOWEVER, THE important question does not concern Dayan's morals but a much more profound matter: Why were Dayan and so many of us at the time concerned with archeology, a science considered by many people as a rather dreary business?
It held for us a profound fascination.
That Zionist generation was the first one born in
the country (though I myself was born in
They were yearning for roots. They trekked to every corner, spent nights around a campfire, came to know every hill and valley.
For them, the Talmud and all the religious texts were a bore. The Talmud and other scriptures had sustained the Jews in the Diaspora for centuries, but evoked no interest here. The new generation embraced the Hebrew Bible with unbounded enthusiasm, not as a religious book (almost all of us were atheists) but as an unequalled masterpiece of Hebrew literature. Since they were also the first generation for whom the rejuvenated Hebrew was their mother tongue, they fell in love with the lively, concrete Biblical Hebrew language. The much more sophisticated, abstract language of the Talmud and other later books repelled them.
The Biblical events had taken place in the country they knew. The Biblical battles had been fought in the valleys they knew, the kings had been crowned and buried in the localities they knew intimately.
They had looked at night at the stars of
THIS PASSIONATE attachment to the country was by
no means preordained. Indeed,
As I have mentioned before, the founding father,
Theodor Herzl, did not think about
In the first draft of his idea, which was
addressed to the Rothschild family, the land of his dream was Patagonia, in
It was only the sentiments of the Jewish masses in
Eastern Europe that compelled Herzl to redirect his efforts towards
ONCE THE Zionist movement directed its thoughts
The Zionist claim to
So, with the coming of
the Zionists to
There started a veritable attack on archeological sites. The upper layers of Ottoman and Mamelukes, Arabs and Crusaders, Byzantines and Romans and Greeks and Persians were uncovered and removed in order to lay bare the ancient layer of the Children of Israel and to prove the Bible right.
Huge efforts were made.
David Ben-Gurion, a self-appointed Biblical scholar, led the effort. The
Chief of Staff of the army, Yigael Yadin, the son of an archeologist, and
himself a professional archeologist, searched ancient sites to prove that
the Conquest of
When remnants of the bones of Bar Kochba's fighters were discovered in Judean desert caves, they were buried on Ben-Gurion's orders in a big military ceremony. The uncontested fact that Bar Kochba had caused perhaps the greatest catastrophe in Jewish history was glossed over.
AND THE result?
Incredible as it sounds, four generations of devoted archeologists, with a burning conviction and huge resources, did produce exactly:
From the beginning of the effort to this very day, not a single piece of
evidence of the ancient history was found.
Not a single indication that the exodus from
Israel appears for the first time in sound
archeological findings in Assyrian inscriptions, which describe a coalition
of local kingdoms which tried to stop the Assyrian advance into
ALL THESE are negative pieces of evidence suggesting that the early Biblical story is invented. Since practically no trace whatsoever of the early Biblical story has been found, does this prove that it is all fiction?
Perhaps not. But real proof does exist.
Egyptology is a scientific discipline that is separate from Palestinian archeology. But Egyptology proves conclusively that the Biblical history until King Ahab is indeed fiction.
Up to now, many tens of thousands of Egyptian
documents have been deciphered, and the work is still going on. After the
Hyksos from Asia invaded
Even if one would like to believe that the Bible only exaggerates real events, the fact is that not even a tiny mention of the exodus, the conquest of Canaan or King David has been found.
They just did not happen.
IS THIS important? Yes and no.
The Bible is not real history. It is a monumental religious and literary document, that has inspired untold millions throughout the centuries. It has formed the minds of many generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
But history is something else. History tells us what really happened. Archeology is a tool of history, an invaluable tool for the understanding of what took place.
These are two different disciplines, and never the twain shall meet. For the religious, the Bible is a matter of belief. For non-believers, the Hebrew Bible is a great work of art, perhaps the greatest of all. Archeology is something entirely different: a matter of sober, proven
Israeli schools teach the Bible as real history. This means that Israeli children learn only its chapters, true or fictitious. When I once complained about this in a Knesset speech, demanding that the full history of the country throughout the ages be taught, including the chapters of the Crusades and the Mamelukes, the then minister of education started to call me "the Mameluke".
I still believe that every child in this country, Israeli and Palestinian, should learn its full history, from the earliest days to this day, with all its layers. It is the basis of peace, the real Rock Of Our Existence.
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