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CUFI Talking Points: Israel’s Undeniable Jewish History Uncovered

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The last several weeks have been fairly quiet in Israel, and for this we are immensely thankful. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you some good news coming out of Israel. Recently archaeologists have made several amazing discoveries that tangibly demonstrate the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the land of Israel. No one can say that the Jews have no claim on this land, because every time someone digs in Israel they find more evidence that their people have lived there for thousands of years.

One of the most significant recent finds was the discovery of an extremely rare synagogue from the Second Temple Era in the foothills of the Galilee. Only eight such synagogues have been found, and this is the first one found in what would have been a rural village at the time. This first century synagogue was uncovered only a few weeks ago, and provides an exciting glimpse of Jewish community life in the Galilee before the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.

In another part of the Galilee, at a different ancient Jewish synagogue, this summer archaeologists uncovered part of a beautiful mosaic floor depicting scenes from the Bible. Several biblical scenes had already been found at this site, but the two scenes found this summer are very rare. One of them shows Pharaoh’s soldiers being swallowed by giant fish in the Red Sea, and the other shows the pairs of animals loaded onto Noah’s Ark.

In Jerusalem, excavations of the city that existed 2,000 years ago have revealed a new neighborhood that may have been where the temple priests lived. This neighborhood was certainly wealthy, and archaeologists have found several rare items in these ancient houses – including a bathtub that has only been found in three other places in Israel. The artifacts found here paint a fascinating picture of how Jerusalem’s elite Jewish citizens lived thousands of years ago.

One of the most common arguments Israel’s detractors use against modern Israel is the claim that Jews are foreigners brought to Israel after the Holocaust. This is a false talking point used by Israel’s enemies, but archaeological evidence irrefutably demonstrates that Jews have lived continuously in Israel for over 3,500 years. This is their homeland, and the ground is filled with the proof.

Archaeological Evidence of the Kingdom of David

Skyview of the archaeological evidence of the Kingdom of David in the Elah Valley, Khirbet Qeiyafa. Photo Credit: courtesy, Israel Antiquities Authority / Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Skyview of the archaeological evidence of the Kingdom of David in the Elah Valley, Khirbet Qeiyafa.
Photo Credit: courtesy, Israel Antiquities Authority / Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Biblical archaeology was revolutionized several years ago when evidence of the existence of the kingdom of David was brought to light in the form of a fortified Iron Age town excavated in the Elah Valley by Hebrew University Professor Yosef Garfinkel and Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor.

The place was described by the Bible as the location of the battle between David and Goliath. The highlights of the findings of the Elah Valley excavations are now to be presented to the public for the first time at an exhibition scheduled to open at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on September 5.

“Archaeology cannot find a man and we did not find the remnants linked to King David himself,” Professor Garfinkel told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “But what we did find is archaeological evidence of the social process of urbanization in Judea.”

According to Prof. Garfinkel, the evidence of urbanization fits in with what is described in the Bible as the establishment of the Kingdom of David, when small agrarian communities were replaced by fortified towns. “The chronology fits the Biblical narrative perfectly. Carbon tests performed on the olive pits found in Khirbet Qeiyafa show the town was built at the end of the 11th century BCE,” Garfinkel explained. Read more at The Jewish Press.

Archaeologists Uncover Life of Luxury in 2,000-year-old Priestly Quarters of Jerusalem

A bird's eye view of the Mt. Zion excavation, as seen from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Kevin Caldwell

A bird’s eye view of the Mt. Zion excavation, as seen from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Kevin Caldwell

Archaeologists excavating in the heart of ancient Jerusalem have begun to uncover the neighborhood that housed the elite 2,000 years ago – most probably the priestly ruling class.

One of the houses had its own cistern, a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bathing pool), a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a chamber with three bread ovens.

Inside a room found with its ceiling intact was a bathtub – an extremely rare luxury that commoners of the time could not afford.

Bathtubs, as opposed to ritual dipping pools, have so far only been found at King Herod’s palaces in Masada and Jericho, and in the so-called “Priestly Mansion” in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Read more at Haaretz.

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

Synagogue from Second Temple era unearthed on Sea of Galilee shore

The excavation of a 2,000-yearold Jewish settlement and synagogue from the Second Temple period in Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, recently revealed rare and well-preserved antiquities, including a bronze incense shovel and jug.

The dig, overseen by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a building there, took place in an area considered to be the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history for its historical and religious significance for both Jews and Christians.

Magdala was once a large Jewish settlement in the early Roman period. Its Greek name, “Taricheae,” means “place where fish are salted,” possibly alluding to the main source of income of the city’s inhabitants two millennia ago.  Read more at The Jerusalem Post.