- "The stories of the Torah and the Bible did not take place in the Land of Israel," claims Arab historian Jarid al-Kidwa. "They occurred in the Arabian peninsula, primarily in Yemen."
- "Jerusalem was never a Jewish city," adds Walid M. Awad, who served as the Director of Foreign Publications for the Palestine Ministry of Information. "There is no tangible evidence of Jewish existence from the so-called 'Temple Mount Era.'"
- "There never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem," notes Palestinian journalist Ismail Jamal. "The people of Israel realize perfectly well that they have no temples or ruins near Al-Aqsa Mosque."
Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar has heard these preposterous claims before, but she has learned that sometimes the best way to reply to lies is by digging, literally, for the truth. Today, you can find her at an archaeological dig in East Jerusalem, where several dozen workers quickly move up and down a single, steep set of steps leading into a 20-foot-deep excavation site. In the pit, each person focuses on a tiny area, working side by side in an area no larger than an average living room. Using tiny picks and soft brushes, the archaeologists carefully ease the accumulated soil away, layer by layer, collecting it in buckets which are later sifted, to make sure no artifacts are missed. Then a bucket brigade of workers hauls the buckets out, hand to hand, until they reach a cart at the top of the site which carries the debris away.
This is no ordinary excavation. "We're almost certain that we've found the legendary palace of King David," says Mazar, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, an academic and research institute in Jerusalem
Besides being an extraordinary archaeological find, the palace is also solid proof of a significant Jewish presence and history in Jerusalem-a direct reply to the many claims to the contrary. The discovery may also influence political decisions about the future status of Jerusalem. "Today it's become fashionable to say there was no David, no Solomon, no Temple, no prophets," notes Mazar. "But suddenly the facts on the ground are speaking, and those outspoken voices are stammering."
- Bureaucratic and Logistical Obstacles
- Mazar's quest to find the palace began with a bureaucratic quagmire. "In Jerusalem, you can't just dig wherever you want," she says. "You need permission and funds, and I couldn't get either one. No one else believed that digging where I wanted to dig was worthwhile: Excavations in the 1960s ended when they unearthed what they believed was a fortress, and beneath that, bedrock. I knew they were wrong, so I didn't give up. I spent ten years going like a beggar, pleading. But my fellow archaeologists discouraged potential donors. They didn't believe my project had a chance of success."
- In addition, much of King David's palace had been destroyed. "We know the palace was made from the cedars of Lebanon [I Chronicles 17:1] and that it was built by Hiram, king of Tyre, and his Phoenician carpenters and stone masons [II Samuel 5:11]," Mazar explains. "But when the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 B.C.E., virtually everything except the stone foundations burned."
- But Mazar persisted, and a breakthrough finally came when financier Roger Hertog wrote a check for a half-million dollars, allowing her to begin excavating. "Understand," she says, "I didn't just believe the palace was here. I knew it. How? From the Book of Samuel."
- Tanakh as a Treasure Map
- The Tanakh is the only important document from that time period, Mazar notes. “Of cour se I relied on it. I also used every bit of technical evaluation and research that existed, but I excavated with the Tanakh in one hand. We proved that it is true and accurate.”
- Clue one: “David heard of it and went down to the fortress.” (II Samuel 5:17)
- “That’s my first clue,” says Mazar. “If David was living in his palace, and went down to the fortress for better protection, then his palace must have been on a higher point. Where could that be? On the north. Outside the city wall, not inside.” She began excavating in an area other archaeologists said the palace could not be.
- Clue two: Enormous boulders, some as high as five feet, with the diameter of a refrigerator.
- “Other archaeologists ignored these stones, believing they rested on bedrock,” Mazar notes. “We didn’t accept that. We moved them, and underneath, we found the remains of a gigantic structure, with walls 20 feet wide! Now we knew we were onto something.”
- Clue three: Pottery.
- “A week after we found those walls, we began finding pottery, amazing pieces that were directly related to the palace,” Mazar says. “The potter y proved it couldn’t be the fortress. The pottery dated from King David’s time.”
- Clue four: A bulla.
- A bulla is a small clay disk used to identify and seal a roll of papyrus. “We were excavating, and when a ray of sun hit just right, something caught our archaeologist Yoav Farhi’s eye. The disk was covered with dirt, but we could see the letters ‘SLM’ and wondered if it might mean ‘Jerusalem.’ But that night I took it home, and my son Snir, 16, and I carefully cleaned it off, using a needle to loosen the dirt. We could read the ancient Hebrew script, ‘Belonging to Yehuchal, son of Shelemiyahu, son of Shovi.’ There it was—we were touching the words of the Tanakh! Jeremiah mentions Yehuchal twice—in Jeremiah 37:3, when Yehuchal was sent to ask Jeremiah to pray for them, and second, Jeremiah 38:1–6, when he and others ask the king to kill Jeremiah.
- “That was it. To find this bulla, with names of two important officials from the City of David, was astonishing. But more importantly, it proved that what the Tanakh says is true.”