[OPE] The totalitarian imagination: Jerusalem as a Zionist theme park experience

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Fri Oct 09 2009 - 08:39:08 EDT

"A dialectical view suggests that knowledge of the past can exist only in
the present, and that such knowledge must therefore be a complex result of
past and present"

- Randall McGuire, A Marxist Archaeology (Percheron Press, 2002, p. 215).

Shallow and brutal archaeology

By Raphael Greenberg

As usual during the Jewish holidays, the Israeli public has been inundated
with reports of "amazing discoveries" in excavations in Jerusalem. One might
dismiss them as a combination of public relations and the need to fill the
holiday newspapers, but in fact they attest to a worrying process whereby
archaeological research in Jerusalem is being made shallow and subordinated
to narrow interests of time and place.

After a period of official and programmatic archaeology following the
unification of the city in 1967, it appeared that Israeli archaeology had
found the correct balance between the desire to uncover and protect the
city's antiquities and the demands of modern scientific research. The symbol
of this balance was Yigal Shiloh's excavation project in the City of David.

Now this balance has been disrupted and most of the archaeological research
in Jerusalem is being driven by pressures from politically interested groups
and individuals with the aim of "proving" our historical rights in the city
or clearing an area for construction. The outcome is "fast archaeology" that
satisfies the consumer's hunger but damages archaeological assets under
Israel's responsibility.

The best archaeology, the kind practiced at the world's leading
archaeological centers, is slow archaeology that gives excavators time to
deepen their familiarity with each site's unique problems and digest the
results of their actions so they can repair and improve. Every excavation is
planned and documented destruction, so the destroyer has a great
responsibility. Therefore, the most advanced archaeology is also transparent
and open to criticism, undertaken in an atmosphere of openness. And here and
now, in the Israel of 2009, the opposite is the case.

Much of the archaeology in the center of Jerusalem's "holy basin" is fast
archaeology, swallowing up more than it is capable of digesting. It is no
coincidence that the top archaeologists from this country's leading
institutes are refraining from taking part in excavations in Jerusalem. I
would not send my students to apprentice there.

This archaeology is being carried out under time pressure and is subordinate
to the desires of landlords who are not scholars; usually these are
religious, ideological or tourist organizations, or contractors. The work is
carried out nonstop, without pause for researchers to understand their
findings. Thus, for example, most of the Antiquities Authority's
archaeological activities around the City of David's water system have been
delegated to a duo of archaeologists who have not yet published a serious
report on these excavations.

Moreover, for several years now, excavations in these areas have been
carried out in tunnels in horizontal digs - contrary to every accepted
practice. During the excavations, many tons of dirt are discarded along with
a considerable part of their archaeological contents (and this comes as,
with trumpet blasts, an expensive project is underway to sift dirt the Waqf
is taking out of the Temple Mount). There is no external oversight of the
excavators: The Antiquities Authority is both carrying out the work and
supervising it.

Near the Western Wall, too, excavations have been completed recently that
went on for three years without pause, and, for more than a year now,
extensive excavations have been going on beneath the Western Wall tunnels in
accordance with a demand by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a
nonprofit organization.

These excavations are being carried out under secret agreements with the
various authorities, without comprehensive planning and external oversight.
A shallow archaeology is developing in Jerusalem that is giving Israeli
science a bad reputation. After 40 years of controlling the city, we are
digging as if there were no tomorrow.

The writer teaches archaeology at Tel Aviv University and has worked on the
City of David excavations http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1119641.html

Watch the video (23 mins) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRNAJCHxa7w

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Received on Fri Oct 9 08:48:31 2009

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