Red Sea – Dead Sea Project
There has been considerable discussion recently in the press about the possibility of constructing a water link from the Gulf of Eilat to the southern end of the Dead Sea. The purpose of this scheme would be to stem the loss of water in the Dead Sea, which is dropping about one meter in height every year, The scheme would include considerable advantages in water supply to the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Jordanians, who all support the idea in theory, but it is ergonomically controversial and hugely costly. There are strong arguments on both sides. Whatever details, it would involve the construction of a canal or large pipeline between the two waterways and this would cause considerable damage to the area of the Negev involved, which in turn would require a very large number of rescue digs by archaeologists.
Removal of Jewish Relics from Temple Mount
There was a heated discussion in the Knesset at the end of December, initiated by Moshe Feiglin, who asserted that the Waqf, the Islamic supervisory body of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, was removing ancient timber beams, which he claimed dated back to the time of Solomon, from the site. He blamed the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for lack of supervision, but in fact, the IAA has no responsibility for this area, designated as a Holy Site, over which only the Waqf and the Israel Police have jurisdiction.
“Kedem Compound” Visitors’ Centre Criticised
The Givati Parking Lot opposite the entrance to the City of David site is due to be developed as a visitors’ centre in East Jerusalem. The approved plans have been criticized by archaeologists because the development will completely cover the site, which was in the course of excavation and has revealed rich finds that are attributed to a possible palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who converted to Judaism and settled in Jerusalem in 1st century CE. Judging by the published illustration, the project is a massive one with a central pedestrian walkway flanked by four-storey construction each side to house meeting and exhibition rooms, lecture halls and offices. There will be underground parking levels which will destroy parts of the site, and the critics claim that the whole complex should have been planned on an open ground floor with pillars, that would have allowed access to the original structures below.
Excavations at Tel Hebron
Work started in early January on excavations at Tel Rumeida, ancient Hebron, where walls exist that date back to the period of Abraham and earlier, according to a recent press release by the IAA. The dig will continue works started in the 1960’s which have revealed remains from the Early Bronze Age and all later periods up to the Islamic era. The excavations will be conducted by Emanuel Eisenberg of the IAA, who worked on the site 15 years ago and is now hoping to make finds, he says, that go back to the time of King David and earlier.
Ancient Pottery from a Private Collection in Galilee
In mid-January the IAA made the surprising find of a large collection of ancient pottery in the basement of a woman living in Poriya Illit in the lower Galilee. The lady, Osnat Lester, telephoned the IAA to announce that she had a basement full of pottery dredged up from the Mediterranean by a fisherman relative of her family, now deceased. The IAA sent two of its members and found a large number of boxes of intact vessels and large broken fragments, that they were able to date to the periods from the Biblical to the Roman ages. The vessels were used to carry wine, oils and various foodstuffs, and had been loaded on cargo ships which later sank at sea. The pottery was encrusted with seashells and ocean debris and sediment. This valuable find will be examined in detail and then prepared for public exhibition, according to Amir Ganon of the IAA, which will please the donor who had expressed the wish that it will not just be stored away but put on view so that her grandchildren would be able to view it. The IAA thanked Mrs. Lester for presenting this precious cargo of pottery to them and thereby donating it to the people of Israel as a whole.
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem