Jerusalem’s City of David Dogged by Politics
At the end of October 1995, just days before he was assassinated, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited the upper part of the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, accompanied by a large entourage. There, in the place also known as the City of David National Park, a big tent had been set up for the opening of the festivities marking Jerusalem’s 3,000th anniversary − an event that grew out of the vision of former mayor Teddy Kollek.
Also present was Ronny Reich, an archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Just before the ceremony, Reich had been asked to excavate a small section of City of David, a sort of gift from the IAA in honor of the city’s special birthday.
At the end of the ceremony, as the national anthem “Hatikva” was being sung, it struck Reich that this was probably the first time it was ever actually being sung in “Zion” − not Zion as a synonym for the Land of Israel or for Jerusalem, and not a metaphorical Zion, but the genuine, original Zion: the name of the Jebusite fortress conquered by King David 3,000 years ago.
“It occurred to me that this was the first time ever that ‘Hatikva’ was sung in precisely the spot that its lyrics speak of! I was awestruck by my little discovery and I still get emotional whenever I talk about it,” writes Reich in a recently published (Hebrew) book entitled “Excavating the City of David: The Place Where Jerusalem’s History Began.”
Reich isn’t generally the type to get excited. He describes himself as possessing “a certain amount of indifference.” Often throughout this interview, his response is “What can I do?” − accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. Mostly, he stresses his indifference to politics. His leftist critics say he must have had to muster every possible ounce of indifference in order to ignore the political use being made of his scientific work.
For more, go to Haaretz.com