A few days ago, we learned of an amazing discovery in the community of Hukuk overlooking the Sea of Galilee: an ancient synagogue from the 6th century, the late Talmudic period. In the center of the synagogue is a breathtaking mosaic containing an image of the biblical judge Samson and his foxes with torches attached to their tails.
The Book of Judges tells how Samson's Philistine bride is given to another man while he is away and, in his anger, he uses foxes to burn the Philistines' fields. When the Philistines learn the reason, they kill his wife and father-in-law, which further angers Samson, who kills even more Philistines. This story takes place in the Bible before the better-known tale of Samson and Delilah.
Discoveries of this type don't usually make headlines. At best they are a curiosity, breaking into the routine of political and security news. Who, for instance, is aware that a team of archaeologists is currently at work on a hillside in Emek Ha’elah? The team includes students from the U.S., Germany and South Korea. They are hoping to uncover more artifacts from one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time — a city dated from the era of King David.
The land of Israel attracts the attention of billions of people worldwide. This interest is not merely political or religious, but historical. This strip of land, in not only the cradle of monotheistic faith, but the place where Christianity was born, shaping the identity of the West. It later served as a battleground for Muslim warlords, who fought over the character of the Muslim empire.
Over the last 130 years, these two narratives have once again come together in the land of Israel, which has turned into an arena of clashes between the West, represented by the Jews, and the Muslim world.
The history debate in this country takes place underground, in both senses of the word. First of all, it rarely reaches the awareness of the broader public. In other words, the struggle over the historical identity of the land of Israel takes place at sites that are mostly hidden from the public eye, such as under the Temple Mount, in Khirbet Qeiyafa (near Beit Shemesh) or in the Galilee village of Hukuk. We need to ask how aware the Israeli public truly is of attempts by Muslim interests to destroy important historical sites.
Second, this debate is conducted in the corridors of academia, where archaeologists and historians with a certain political agenda do everything in their power to reject discoveries confirming the historicity of biblical accounts or artifacts that attest to Jewish sovereignty in the ancient land of Israel. In their view, such discoveries can only endanger the process of building up the Palestinian nation.
It is in the nature of archaeological discoveries that they cost money, which is often in short supply. History and archaeology don't receive generous budgets due to their unprofitable image. But we should remember that these findings, beyond their momentary news value, confirm the millenia-old ties of the Jewish people to its homeland.
The Israeli government should show more awareness of this issue. For those who set budgets in this country and wonder how important these findings are, I say this: Go visit the synagogues in Hukuk or in Khirbet Qeiyafa. The answer you seek is spelled out there — in Hebrew letters.