Tel Aviv (Aug. 25)
The academic community is united in rejecting Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s claim that the City of David area where archaeological excavations are now going on was the site of Jewish cemeteries in the past.
Noted professors of history, archaeology and liberal arts called a press conference in Jerusalem today at which they presented a document signed by 17 academics who had researched this field, stating categorically that no Jewish cemeteries ever existed in that area. The document was accompanied by maps and ancient texts, including some of those quoted by Goren to support the contention on which he and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had based their ruling that the archaeological excavations at the City of David must be halted.
Prof. Arye Ben-Yehoshua, a noted liberal arts academician, stressed that the documents confirmed that there has never been a Jewish cemetery in the City of David area. He said there was “no objective scientific basis” for the interpretation of the texts cited by Goren.
Prof. Nachman Avigad, who has carried out extensive research into Jewish graves and cemeteries in and around Jerusalem, said it was “absolutely clear” that no Jewish graves existed in the area under dispute. He said there was proof that the City of David area had been inhabited in the Second Temple period, and it was clear that no dead were ever buried inside a city.
Prof. Yehoshua Prawer, a world expert on the medieval and Crusader period, said there was no basis for Goren’s claims on the basis of the Middle Ages texts he had quoted. The professors said they were ready to give evidence and present their proofs to any court if anyone decided to appeal to the Supreme Court on the archaeology issue.