Monday, May 10, 2010

Ketef Hinnom site lies neglected at Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

KETEF HINNOM, the site of the discovery of the silver amulets inscribed with the priestly benediction, lies in neglect at the Menahem Begin Heritage Center according to Jewish Ideas Daily:
Interestingly, the Heritage Center also hosts an actual biblical site: Ketef Hinnom, or the "Shoulder of Hinnom." This is a chain of Jewish burial chambers that were carved out of the rock in the 7th century B.C.E. In 1979, a dig conducted by the archaeologist Gabriel Barkay yielded one of the most significant finds in Israel's history: tiny rolled-up silver scrolls on whose inner surface is inscribed the Priestly Blessing—"The Lord bless you and keep you . . ." (Numbers 6:24-26)—in ancient Hebrew. These are the oldest surviving texts of the Bible—older than the Dead Sea Scrolls by roughly a half-millennium. Barkay speculates that the scrolls were originally worn "as amulets to give their wearers protection against evil."

Ketef Hinnom is thus one of the most important sites in the history of biblical archeology. Yet it suffers from serious neglect. The burial chambers lie hidden behind the Heritage Center's courtyard; you won't even find a sign pointing you in the right direction. More troublingly, the site is completely exposed to the elements, and in winter months some of the chambers are filled with standing rainwater. Trash is strewn between the graves; unattended foliage grows over the stone.

The problem, according to the center staff, is limited resources. But you don't need a large sum of money to put up a proper sign, or any money at all to remove trash. A starker explanation may be seen in the Heritage Center's souvenir shop, where you will find plenty of books about Menahem Begin as well as the usual tourist items but nothing connected to the archaeological site—not even a replica of the Priestly Blessing.
For the Ketef Hinnom silver amulet, see here and here and follow the links back.