Researchers dig up controversy in Jerusalem

Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:53pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Erika Solomon

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Jerusalem are competing to unearth artifacts pointing to the ancient city's Jewish past, which are used to justify Israel's claim to all of it as the indivisible capital of the modern Jewish state.

But critics say some of "finds" are really just bending science to prove a "Biblical heritage" that is open to dispute.

"Archaeologists have given up many of their best practices in order to answer the continuing demands of mainly political actors," says Raphael Greenberg, an Israeli archaeologist from Tel Aviv University, who has worked in Jerusalem.

With generous funding, including from religious groups intent on expanding Jewish settlement, archaeologists are digging up possible Biblical sites in occupied East Jerusalem and its surrounding West Bank suburbs at record pace.

So fast, say critics, that there are cave-ins at some sites, heightening tensions with the 250,000 Palestinians who live in the holy city, which Israel has controlled fully since 1967.

Archaeology in Jerusalem dates back well over a century -- British enthusiasts began digging below the Old City 150 years ago, revealing remains that many say are those of a walled settlement ruled by the biblical Jewish king David.

That City of David site, still an active dig, is now also a tourist attraction, with around 400,000 visitors a year. It is funded by Elad, a group which also supports Jewish settlement.

As visitors eye the cracked stone walls, a stout 60-year-old man dons a skullcap, stops the group and flips open a Bible.   Continued...

 
<p>Archaeologist Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem gestures near an archaeological site known as the City of David during an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem's Old City March 4, 2010. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen</p>