By Anessa V. Cohen
We just celebrated Israel’s Yom HaAtzma’ut, birthday number 69. We are also celebrating 50 years since the Six Day War and the liberation of Jerusalem. There are so many different events going on in Israel that to list them all would be impossible, but Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, published a Shabbos supplement this week with a unique story that I felt was worth sharing.
One of the most popular places on the itineraries of those traveling to Israel these days is the City of David. This area, which is located south of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in the heart of the village of Silwan, began as a small project with just a few houses within a parking field.
In the 19th century, most of Silwan was owned and populated by Jews. When the British took control from the Ottoman Empire after the end of World WarÂ I, things became more dangerous for the Jews in Silwan, as Jews had to deal with the violence from Arabs in the Old City of Jerusalem, Hebron, and similar areas.
In the 1930s, Arabs started chasing Jews out of this area of Silwan while the British soldiers looked the other way, and the Jews, not wanting to suffer what the Jews in Hebron had suffered in the massacres of the 1920s, ran away. Arabs took over all of the homes there that were owned by Jews.
Fast-forward to the 1980s. The organization Elad was formed by a man by the name of David Be’eri, who took it upon himself to finally go back into Silwan and fight to retrieve all these homes that had previously been owned by Jews and were taken from them by force.
Obviously, he wasn’t able to accomplish this overnight, but rather in bits and pieces, researching and digging up documents proving ownership rights of the Jews who had lived there and had never sold their properties. He also had to fight the Arabs presently living in those homes to legally throw them out in favor of the Jewish owners of record.
As the organization got hold of houses, renovations began with the intention of fixing them up and renting them out to Jews to bring them into Silwan once again. During renovations below the basements of some of these houses, major archaeological finds began to emerge, which made them realize that there was an underground treasure field in the Silwan area of which they had just scratched the surface. They brought in professional archaeologists to begin digging and searching for never-imagined treasures waiting underground.
A batch of swords discovered under one house was carbon-tested and found to date back to the time of King David. Experts believe that these swords were used to fight wars during those years. Bits and pieces of clothing traced back to the garments worn by kohanim were found when digging under the basement of another house. And so began the excavations, piece by piece, as they retrieved more houses and lots. They dug and dug, and connected the pieces.
The article was written because David Be’eri was honored this year with a lifetime-achievement award for his dedication to the discovery and publicity of what has now become a most popular tourist site–the City of David. Be’eri’s initiative of returning Jewish homes to their rightful owners led to the unearthing of the original city of Jerusalem from the times of King David and King Solomon.
Although the excavations have barely scratched the surface of what will take generations to completely unearth, some of the recent discoveries, besides Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which many have already heard of, are additional staircases that were used by the populace living in those times to reach the Temple Mount and Beit HaMikdash, including paths, tunnels, and roads connecting the staircases.
They have already started excavations of what are thought to be the remnants of the palace of King David. A fortress wall measuring 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, which is thought to be part of a wall mentioned in the Tanach connecting King David’s Jerusalem to the Temple Mount back then, is located next to the palace of King David.
The excavation has unearthed ivory utensils used by royals of that time, as well as artifacts that seem to be from a royal bakery stamped with writing on it that says “for the king.”
Next to this structure, another excavation is thought to possibly be the palace of King Solomon, since they have found many artifacts there pointing to him, together with stamps and other items used by those who would have served him.
There has been a steady expansion of the humble beginning of the City of David–from a parking lot with several houses to a consistent growth of more houses being obtained. New excavations start as soon as they gain ownership of these properties.
I cannot wait to go back and see what this year has uncovered in new discoveries and more undeniable proof of our historical rights in Jerusalem. And to think it all started with trying to retrieve some Jewish homes that were stolen in the 1930s!
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.