Rediscovering Hebron’s Past
Back in the 1960s an archeologist from the United States, Prof. Philip Hammond, from the Princeton Theological Seminary, excavated in Hebron, in the area call Tel Rumeida, during the summer months of 1964, 1965, and 1966. He discovered many interesting artifacts on the south eastern side of the Tel, including the remains of walls so large and so old, that he called them “Cycloptic walls.”
Hammond’s findings were later documented by Prof. Jeffrey Chadwick of the Brigham Young University in his doctoral thesis. (See: Discovering Hebron, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, BAR 31:05, Sep/Oct 2005).
Later excavations were continued by Dr. Avi Ofer, between the years 1984-1986. He discovered what was called one of the most important archaeological finds, a tablet with writing on it, from the era preceding Abraham, probably a list of animals, perhaps utilized for sacrifice.
In 1998, archologist Yuval Peleg literally fell into an underground room, near the present entrance into the neighborhood, where he discovered dozens of artifacts, including jars, jewelry, and other artifacts from the late Bronze era, that is, post-Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
However, perhaps the most astounding discoveries were those of Emmanuel Eisenberg, leading excavations for the Israeli Antiquities Department, in 1999. Among his finds were a 4,500 year old wall, that belonging to the early bronze era, which on a Biblical timeline is the time of Noah, and stairs, also over 4,000 years old, leading from the valley below into the ancient city of Hebron.
Eisenberg can also chalk up another amazing discovery: that of a home, 2,700 years old, from the time of King Hezekiah. In the vicinity of this home, also found were five seals, call ‘the King seals,’ bearing the impression of a bird, or a beetle, with the word ‘lemelech’ meaning ‘belonging to the King, written above the impression, and the word ‘Hebron’ in ancient Hebron, below it. These seals were embedded on the bottom of handles on clay jars containing food, to be distributed to soldiers in the then Judean army, who were fighting a war against Sancheriv, who also invaded Hebron and burned it to the ground. Stone pillars discovered at the site are stained with patches of black, which Eisenberg determined were from the remains of the fire which burned down Hebron.
The 1999 excavations revealed artifacts from 4,500 years ago, to about 1,500 years ago. One of the time periods unaccounted for is that of 3,000 years ago, when David began his reign as King of Judea in Hebron, where he ruled for 7 and a half years, before ascending to Jerusalem, establishing it as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The present understanding, was was explained to us by Eisenberg, is that most probably David founded the first City of David on the highest point of Tel Hebron, an area yet to be examined.
Until now. Until Sunday of this week. A few days ago Hebron joyfully greeted back Emmanuel Eisenberg, representing the Israeli Antiquities Agency, and Dr. David ben Shlomo from the Ariel University, who are jointly heading up renewed digging on Tel Hebron. The areas presently being excavated are labeled ‘plots 52 and 53,’ on the center-south-west section of Tel Hebron. The area is between 5 to 6 Dunam, that being some 1.5 acres or 6,000 sq. meters. The time needed to complete the excavation is dependent on the findings at the site, but it is possible that they could be completed by the end of this calendar year.
These renewed excavations are tremendously exciting. The thought of uncovering the original city of David, or even his palace, is mind-boggling. Why so? Hebron is the roots of Judaism, it is the roots of all of monotheism and I also call it the very beginnings of humanity. That being the beginning of the end of human sacrifice, with the belief of one G-d, a Deity rejecting killing of men, women and children as a means of worship. With Abraham, mankind starts to leave the barbarity of such acts and begins praying to one G-d. This is Abraham’s legacy.
We repeat the words ‘David Melech Yisrael, Chai v’Kayam – David, King of Israel, is alive and exists. Daily we pray for the renewal of the kingdom of David, the roots of which are in Hebron.
The significance of this is, not such much what was in the past, but who we are today, and where we are going in the future. I tell many of my guests in Hebron, I am not so amazed at the presence of Abraham, 3,700 years ago, but rather that we still live at the very site where we originated. How many peoples in world can say that, today, in 2014, they still live where they began, in our case, almost 4,000 years ago?
We are part of a chain, beginning with Abraham, continuing through David, and leading, over the centuries, to the present, a chain which will stretch thru eternity. In order to know who we are, what we are, and where we have the potential to reach, we must know where we are coming from. If you don’t know your past, you have no idea which direction to go in, you get lost, not knowing where you are going.
Renewed revelation of Hebron’s past will be as an arrow, pointing us in the right direction, as we continue to march thru the pages of history, an eternal people in an eternal land.