[Marxism] Historians Resist Polemicists in Israel

Len Walsingham lha.walsingham at btopenworld.com
Wed Jan 21 15:31:26 MST 2004

Following my earlier post today I did a little digging and came across
this religious debunking site by Mike Magee:


Below is a portion of what is there.

"They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that
speaketh uprightly." 
Amos 5:10


Historians Resist Polemicists in Israel
Associated Press, Jerusalem, 29 October 1999 

Archaeological findings do not support and in many cases directly
contradict biblical stories describing the birth of the Jewish people,
according to Zeev Herzog of Tel Aviv University. There was no exodus
from Egypt, Joshua did not bring down the walls of Jericho, and
Solomon's kingdom was a small, tribal dynasty. 

Colleagues and critics warned that by targeting the accuracy of the
bible, the research undermines the national myths that are the basis of
Jewish claims to the land of Israel. 

Herzog reviewed evidence now commonly accepted by most archaeologists
showing that there was no exodus from Egypt at the time the bible says,
and that Jericho fell in stages over an extended period, not in a single
raid led by Joshua. More controversially, Herzog argues that the seeds
of the Jewish state are to be found in the 9th century BC when groups of
shepherds who had settled in hilltops established two rival states,
Judah and Israel. 

Excavations of cities from the supposedly majestic time of kings David
and Solomon a century earlier, he said, revealed that the "cities" were
scattered buildings and the kingdoms were small, provincial dynasties
that exercized no real claim over the land. Jerusalem, the capital built
by king David to rule over an empire that spanned much of the Middle
East, was a small fiefdom. 

Fellow archaeologist Amnon Ben-Tor of the Hebrew University, a critic of
Herzog and his post-modernist school of thought, said Herzog uses
archaeology to satisfy a political agenda, namely debunking the legends
upon which the Jewish state was founded. Ben-Tor agreed that "there is a
large measure of glorification in the bible," but said that inscriptions
and excavations from the 10th century BC show the ancient Hebrews had
established a state ruled by David and Solomon, that was substantial if
not magnificent. 

Lawmaker Tommy Lapid, a secular rights champion who believes human
authors wrote the bible, accused Herzog of trying to undermine the
educational and ideological basis of the state. Herzog is "feeding
propaganda to Israel's enemies who want to negate our right to be here,"
Lapid said. The bible contained many myths, but its basic historical
facts document Jewish claims on Israel and form the basis for Jewish
history, culture, language and literature. 

Herzog's article addressed archaeological discoveries from the last few
decades, which have not entered the public consciousness, said
archaeologist Moshe Kochavi of Tel Aviv University, because Israelis are
not ready to abandon their national myths. Kochavi said books publishing
these findings have met with particularly vehement opposition from the
30 percent of Israeli Jews who define themselves as in some way
religious, many of whom believe the bible is the word of God. "The
religious scream out when books like these, saying there was no conquest
and that David's period was not majestic, are written," he said. 

Israeli adults and schoolchildren regularly tour archaeological sites
that guides say prove the bible was right, and the state devotes
substantial resources to excavations thought likely to reveal evidence
of biblical footsteps. Liberal Education Minister Yossi Sarid, who
recently stirred controversy by expunging from textbooks what he says
are myths of modern Israeli history, said Herzog's work deserved
consideration. "If it is interesting and well-founded, I do not see why
it should not be presented in schools as an option," he told a Jerusalem
newspaper. (Adapted from Sari Bashi.) 

Who protests too much, here? 

In Israel, A Elon, a novelist, and Y Shavat, a historian, claim that the
Israeli passion for archaeology-verging on a mania, according to
Dever-is a secular religion, a sentiment for a lost past when God was
your neighbour and the Good were safe. Surely this is precisely what
biblical religions are. Tel Dan has been developed by the Israeli
National Parks Authority, but is labelled by them in such an
outrageously biblicist way that one supects that even they would blush.
Then again, no. Yet, the "Haredin" of Israel, the ultra-orthodox right
wing Jews, are violently opposed to archaeology, claiming that
archaeologists are desecrating the sacred land. Really they fear that
scientific investigation will disprove their religious tradition. 

Ninety percent of fieldwork in Israel is sponsored by the Israeli
government and subsidised by American institutions and excavations are
staffed by American students. Who would come to dig in these hot and
unpleasant conditions except those who were motivated by a conviction
that they were digging up God? Few indeed, and if this few, dedicated to
archaeology rather than God, wanted to make archaeology of the Levant a
career, they would be unlikely to get a post. The American university
departments of biblical studies and biblical archaeology want committed
evangelists, not skeptics. In any case, the university departments
themselves are getting more cautious after modern archaeologists have
dug down to the roots of the bible stories and found them rotten. Dever
says the discipline of biblical archaeology in the US is dying and its
funds drying up, even though popular interest is great. One might think
because it is! 

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