A monumental court ruling

An archaeological site north of Jerusalem has sparked off a series of events that has now culminated in a monumental and controversial legal ruling. It also has the potential for far greater opportunities for Expedition lostArk 2020, although it also presents challenges regarding the sharing of information.

An Archaeological Site

An Historic Site Comes To Life

Horvat Aner nests on the Central Hill Range, just north of Jerusalem. Its earliest claims to historical fame comes from 1 Chronicles 6:70. As the Holy Land is being provided for use by the Levites, it mentions: ”and out of the half tribes of Manasseh: Anner with her suburbs.” Mention of the name Anner can also be found in even earlier Scripture. Genesis 14:13 – 24 describes an Anner who was a confederate of Canaanite forces allied to the forefather Abraham.

However, archaeology is mainly concerned with tangible finds, and worthwhile discoveries were in fact made. Bible Walks writes that the main period of settlement in this site was during the Roman and Byzantine period. According to the ritual baths (Miqva’ot) and the tombs found in and around the site, this was a Jewish village during the Early Roman period (second temple period) and also after the great revolt. After the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 AD) most of the Jewish villages in the area were deserted, and probably this was also the tragic fate of this village. Roman veterans either replaced the Jewish settlers, or the village was totally deserted, as was the case in other villages in Samaria. As the site was yet to be excavated, the history of the site remained vague.

Surrounding Controversy

In more recent times Arabs have settled the surrounding site. When renewed excavations were underway, a few political bodies strongly objected to what they considered to be an Israeli move of aggression that seemingly could only benefit local Jewish settlers. On December 27, 2017, the head of the Palestinian village council for Ras-Karkar together with two residents of Deir Ammar and human rights organizations Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ). This action apparently also included a bid to block further archeological digs. And this is where an otherwise local political dispute took on another complexity.

There are numerous legitimate excavations either currently underway, or going through an approval process in these disputed lands. An academic interest from leading archeologists to probe into areas that is rich not only in ancient Israelite history, but also even much further back in time, was being subject to political scrutiny. This situation was probably regarded as being intolerable by the archaeological community, as stringent safeguards are in place specifically to protect the rights of local communities during any excavation process. However, due to the known international presence of threats by academic institutions against any Israeli scientific research, things took an even graver turn. In this volatile political climate, it became obviously difficult for archaeologists to continue their investigations without becoming personally subject to an increasingly hostile environment that could even hamper their need to share information further through appropriate global forums.

Israel Supreme Court

A Recent Supreme Court Ruling

Accordingly, a May, 2019 Supreme Court decision to withhold archaeological findings within what’s also known as the West Bank, from the general public, now allows the continued practice of excavations without undermining the safety and privacy of those engaged in these projects.

This ruling will have obvious ramifications for distribution of new discoveries, but the greater opportunity to quietly explore areas considered to be rich in potential finds might prove to far outweigh these concerns. The areas potentially affected by this ruling includes sites of huge interest to those seeking answers to questions concerning missing temple artefacts, and much more besides.

Trail of the Ark is associated with many ongoing research activities in areas liable to be affected by this ruling. While it is too early at this stage to fully weigh the implications of distributing information associated with the areas under question, the general mood is one of reserved optimism. The circumstances that have led to this decision are understandable and the need for compliance is not considered to be a major obstacle to sharing information in a responsible manner.

David Bannister

Photo Credit Chris Hoare – Source