Photo: Boas Haetzni
The ancient place of worship on Mount Ebal has long been a secret to researchers. Today many Jews and Christians believe that it is the altar of Joshua. This theory was shaped by the archaeologist Adam Zertal in the 1980s. Companion Benny Katzover remembers.
About 40 years ago a man from the socialist youth movement “HaSchomer HaZair” from the Kibutz Ein Schemer visited me. Adam Zertal stated that he was aiming for an archaeological investigation into the settlement of the Menasche mountain. The researchers wanted to walk the hill. They didn’t want to dig, weren’t looking for anything specific, but wanted to document each find individually.
He said disparagingly: “It is about the time of Joshua.” He did not believe in the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible. Archaeologists from all over the world have been studying the entire area around Mount Ebal for 150 years. So far they hadn’t found anything essential: no building, no wall, no evidence that the biblical stories took place in this way. There was not a single clay pot from the time of Joshua.
All of this, said Zertal, is a further indication that these events are made up stories. For his doctorate he then walked every single meter. And suddenly he found thousands of potsherds on the northern side of the Ebal – all of them dated to the time of Joshua. The skeptical archaeologist was astonished: “Such an explosion doesn’t just happen. The events must have happened as described in the Tanakh. ”
Around 1980, Zertal marked out a field of 7 by 9 meters where he wanted to dig. After a few years he found a pile of stones and underneath a white building with ashes and bones. I said, “Maybe you’ve found Joshua’s altar now.”
He was still making fun of us Bible believers: “You religious people with your dreams! That can mean anything. ”
“And Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying, Pay attention and listen, Israel! Today you have become a people of the Lord your God, that you obey the voice of the Lord your God and do according to his commandments and laws which I command you today ”(Deuteronomy 27: 9f)
Adam was not too familiar with the Tanakh, and most importantly, he did not recognize it. But when he made these discoveries, he began to study the Jewish scriptures. Later, as a professor at Haifa University, he kept quoting from Tanakh, Mishnah, Midrash and Talmud.
Photo: Israelnetz / mh
We had become friends over the years. One day he came to me: “Benny, I don’t know what to do. I am not aware of any similar building between Iran and Egypt. The whole building is so different. There is a ramp, but no windows or doors. It is not a grave, a house or a farm. I have no idea how that should be classified. ”
“As an archaeologist, I cannot rely on the Jewish writings”
Not far from here, in Shavei Shomron, a tour guide in the field school showed us the dimensions of the altar of Joshua from the Mishnah, the basic collection of texts of the Talmud. He showed the place to two draftsmen. It was all right. Zertal said: “I’m sorry, but as an archaeologist I cannot possibly rely on the Jewish scriptures.” There is an altar with twelve stones on Mount Ebal. In Deuteronomy 27 and Joshua 8 God commands through Moses how the altar should be built for the Lord.
At first, Jerusalem was meaningless. It doesn’t even appear in the Torah. The first three books of Moses only use the term “the place that I will show you”. Only when David becomes king does the name Jerusalem appear. But up to King David, Joshua is the important person. And Joshua is inseparable from Shechem (Nablus).
But Adam still didn’t believe. He took 800 bones and sent them to the Hebrew University DNA laboratory in Jerusalem. After two days he came to me excitedly: “You won’t believe the result!” He was holding a report from the laboratory in his hand. All fifteen characteristics were consistent with Jewish belief: all bones came from male kosher animals younger than one year old. In addition, the animals were burned on an open fire.
Adam said, “Benny, I can’t sleep any more at night. The significance of this letter from the laboratory is equivalent to the scientific proof that God gave the Torah to Moses on Sinai. According to most theories, the story of Joshua took place no more than the one on Sinai or the entry into the land of Israel from Egypt. Most researchers assume that it was a small Bedouin tribe of 2,000 to 3,000 people. They adopted customs from the surrounding peoples, wrote everything down and called it Tanakh. But what we found here overturns all of these theories! Even a small child couldn’t deny it.”
In addition to the fifteen laboratory records, Adam was convinced by something else: “There isn’t a single stone carved with iron here. Only Jews were forbidden to carve the stones for an altar. Also, take a look at the ramp. Only Jews are forbidden to build steps to an altar. ”He took two things out of his pocket:“ These are scarabs, replicas of beetles from Egypt. They were signed from Egypt. How do two scarabs from Egypt get here at the Ebal? I found it yesterday in a hole in the building with other items. You didn’t get in there by accident. ”
He made another mathematical consideration: “According to the Tanach, the institution of the Jewish people (Deuteronomy 27: 9) took place on Mount Ebal about 40 years after they came from Egypt and received the Torah at Sinai. Anyone who was 20 years old at the time was now around 60. His grandparents had been there on Sinai. Had it all been just a bluff – how could one then convince people to behave according to all of the commandments and to believe them all? “Adam was suddenly convinced:” The establishment of the Jewish people took place on Mount Ebal. The whole people had come together there. ”
Adam later called the archaeologists “the Bible deniers”. He had once been one of them himself. In lectures he said: “I have learned my lesson. The Tanakh is authentic. ”He had made eight other excavations that confirm the stories from the Tanakh. Many archaeologists deny his findings to this day. For us, who settled here after the Yom Kippur War, the connection to Zertal was a miracle: of all people, the boy from HaSchomer HaZair made these discoveries. It was neither a nationalist nor a religious one. Despite all the evidence, he never committed. He always said, “I ALMOST scientific evidence.” Shortly before his death in October 2015, he said, “You know, it’s always the same principle in the academy. One writes: That’s how it happened. The next one says: No, not like that. The third says: Yes, it is. But to this day no one has refuted me. ”
The very fact that he considered the possibility of leaving Egypt as a real event is a miracle. A special encounter: I was there when the most famous archaeologist at the time, Jigael Jadin, met him on the Ebal. Adam showed him what he had found and referred to the Talmud and the Mishnah. Jadin angrily asked him: “Haven’t you learned that an archaeologist shouldn’t rely on Jewish sources?” Adam looked at him like a schoolboy: “That’s exactly what I questioned. But the findings in the field, the investigations, the radiocarbon method – all of this confirms the sources are right. “Jadin was silent and said:” I have to think about it again. ”
Contradiction from Germany
The German biblical scholar Alexander Schick contradicts the representation of Katzover and Zertal. The dating is still a long way from being discussed. Based on the 1st book of Kings, the exodus would be dated to 1440 BC and the conquest to 40 years later. “But how can the altar from Mount Ebal be dated to this time when it clearly dates from the Iron Age, around 1200 BC?”
There is no contradiction in this for religious Jews. They refer to the book of judges and assume that the parallel periods of action of the judges make a different count possible and this explains the difference of 200 years.
Recorded by mh
Source (German language): “Israel Network | www.israelnetz.com“
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