Arabs in Gaza Have Destroyed Jewish Antiquities
An Arab propagandist in the guise of an American academic threw all academic objectivity to the winds in a relatively recent book, which she seems to hope will qualify her for tenure at Columbia University. One Nadia Abu al-Haj [also “Nadia el-Haj” & “Nadia Abu el-Haj”] has written Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which makes a number of outrageous claims. Such as no Jewish past in the land of Israel, such as only a minority of Jews in Jerusalem in Herod’s time, etc. One of her claims is that Israeli archeologists systematically disregard artifacts and remains of cultures other than Jewish and that Israeli archeologists may even systematically –or out of habitual negligence– destroy non-Jewish remains. In fact, the reality is the opposite. One notable case is that of a Jewish inscription in the Hebrew and Greek alphabets that still existed as recently as 20 years ago but has since been destroyed, apparently by Islamic fanatics shortly after the start of the hate movement called the First Intifada [according to Haggai Huberman; the first “intifada” started in December 1987].
This stone carving was found in 1870, apparently by British travelers. It was discovered in the Great Mosque of Gaza on a stone column which was the upper tier of a double-tiered support for the roof and walls of the mosque. The mosque structure was originally a Crusader church, built after Baldwin I, the Crusader king of Jerusalem, decided to rebuild the city in 1149, after it had lain in ruins since before the Crusader conquest as a result of wars between Seljuk Turks and other Muslim factions, or may have been destroyed at some point by the Crusaders themselves [according to Michael Avi-Yonah]. In this light, it would seem that the Crusaders reused parts –including pillars– of wrecked earlier buildings that were lying around in the ruined city. The Hebrew and Greek inscriptions together with the decorating medallion/wreath, described by Hershel Shanks as “Hellenistic,” indicate that the pillar was part of a synagogue built during the late Roman or the Byzantine periods. The Hebrew and Greek are identical in meaning. They are a man’s name, Hananyah son of Jacob,
Hananyah bar Ya`aqob [in Hebrew writing חנניה בר יעקב ]. The Greek inscription is Anania giyo Iako, meaning the same thing. Giyo [in today’s Greek yiyo] means son or son of. Other features of the bas-relief include a seven-branched, three-footed menorah, a shofar [used in the synagogues on Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur], an etrog[citron] and a lulav [palm frond].
Note that the Hebrew inscription uses the Aramaic word bar בר, meaning son or son of, instead of the usual Hebrew word ben בן. Aramaic was the predominant spoken language of the Jews in Israel in the late Roman and Byzantine periods. Hananyah was probably a major donor to building the synagogue, and he was honored with a stone carving in his name, just as Jews today honor major donors with stone or metal plaques in synagogues.
To summarize the history of the inscription of the bas-relief: 1) the synagogue with the carving in Hananyah’s name was erected in the late Roman or Byzantine periods; 2) the synagogue may have been destroyed at the time of the Arab conquest or in one of the inter-Muslim wars in the early Muslim period before the Crusades, or when the Crusaders destroyed the city of Gaza –according to Michael Avi-Yonah [in the Encyclopedia Judaica, vol 7]–; 3) in 1149, Baldwin I decreed that Gaza be rebuilt; the column from the ruined synagogue was reused to build a Crusader cathedral; 4) after the Muslim reconquest of Gaza, the cathedral was made into a mosque, called the Great Mosque of Gaza; 5) 1870 the bas-relief with its Hebrew and Greek inscriptions was rediscovered on an upper tier of columns supporting the mosque structure; 6) shortly after the start of the hate movement called the First Intifada [December 1987], the bas-relief was destroyed by Muslim haters, apparently because this remnant of ancient Jewish civilization in the Land of Israel was intolerable to them both as Muslims and Arab nationalists. In order to destroy it they needed long ladders, or maybe a scaffolding, in order to get up to the height of the stone carving on the pillar.
Michael Avi-Yonah, “Gaza,” Encyclopedia Judaica, vol 7.
Haggai Huberman, יהודים בעזה (Netsarim: the Center for the Heritage of the Jews of Gaza 1993)
Hershel Shanks, Judaism in Stone: The Archaeology of Ancient Synagogues (New York: Harper & Row; Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1979).
Nadia Abu al-Haj’s denial of the Jewish past in the Land of Israel seems to work by the rule of Article 20 of the PLO Charter:
Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history. . . [from Article 20 of the PLO Charter; Harkabi trans]
Since the PLO Charter denies any Jewish history in the Land of Israel, then those who support the aims of that Charter and those who devoutly believe in it, are likely to deny [or, if under pressure to admit some Jewish link to Israel, then minimize] Jewish history in Israel, which is what Abu al-Haj does, no matter what the actual facts are as attested by archeological findings, by ancient writings, whether pagan writings in Greek or Latin, whether Jewish writings in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, or even as attested in the Quran and Arab historiography [see our earlier post on the Quran’s Zionist passages, as well as Arab historians writing before invention of the “palestinian people” notion]. Since Abu al-Haj is interested in building up a mystique of the newly invented and supposedly put-upon “palestinian people,” it is unlikely that her book reports that the centuries-old Jewish community of Gaza was brought to a violent end in 1929, as the Gaza Jews were driven out by Arab pogroms.
It is noteworthy that Abu al-Haj’s tract was published by the University of Chicago Press, proving once again that academic standards among the academic publishers are down.
UPDATING: The Biblical Archeology Review published an article about the destruction of this bas relief stone carving in its issue of January/February 2001. It also reports Arab destruction of other Jewish archeological remains in Gaza and elsewhere [including the Sinai under Egyptian control]. Most notably, perhaps, it shows an Arab mob happily wrecking the Tomb of Joseph in Sh’khem and desecrating Jewish holy writings. For more on Joseph’s Tomb seehere.
Also see on Joseph’s Tomb & its wrecking by an Arab mob:
Sharon Waxman, “They Knew Not Joseph,” Jerusalem Post, 24 November 2000.
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Here is a relevant page from the blog of Paula Stern who awakened us to Columbia’s support for historical falsification to Israel’s detriment.
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