forthcoming exhibition in a Jerusalem museum proves even archaeology is a
flashpoint in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Israel’s national museum announced the opening of the world’s first exhibition
devoted to the archaeological legacy of King
Herod, the biblical Roman-Jewish king who ruled Jerusalem from 37 to 4 BC. Israel Museum will debut
the Great exhibition on 13 February despite protests from Palestinians who
object to the excavation and display of artefacts found in the West Bank
without permission of Palestinian authorities. The anticipated exhibition,
which will run until October, will include what is believed to be Herod’s tomb
and sarcophagus. This represents the museum’s largest and most expensive
archaeological project to date.
In the New
Testament, Herod, also known as King of Judea, is portrayed as a tyrant who
butchered Bethlehem’s male children in an attempt to prevent the prophesized
birth of Jesus. He was known as a ruthless ruler who murdered his own wives and
members of his family, as well as a visionary respected for his ambitious
building projects. Among his architectural achievements were lavish desert
palaces, fortresses and temples, as well as the expansion of the Second Temple
in Jerusalem, his most famous project.
believe Herod constructed an extravagant, 25m-long tomb for himself before his
death. It was this archaeological treasure that Israeli archaeologist Ehud
Netzer spent his career searching for. In 2007, Netzer announced to the
world that he had found what he believed was Herod’s tomb – a landmark
moment in archaeology. The tomb was found at Herodium, the ruler’s winter
palace in the Judean Desert near Bethlehem in the West Bank. As the Israel
Museum was planning an exhibition featuring the prized find, however, Netzer
fell to his death while surveying the site.
moved ahead with its planned exhibition, excavating several floors of Herod’s tomb,
including three sarcophagi, one of which is believed to be Herod’s. In addition
to his tomb and sarcophagus, the Herod the Great exhibition will include a
reconstructed throne room from Herod’s palace in the Palestinian city of Jericho,
a full-sized replica of his theatre at the Herodium, as well as detailed frescos,
decorative elements and other accoutrements found on site.
it opens, however, the planned exhibition is drawing ire and controversy. The artefacts
were discovered almost entirely in the Palestinian West Bank and their
excavation and removal was done without Palestinian permission – a point of contention
among Israel’s neighbours.
excavation is another example of utilisation of archaeology and history for
ideological purposes… [which] will not serve to establish comprehensive peace
between the two peoples, the Palestinian and Israeli peoples,” Hamdan Taha,
assistant deputy minister in charge of antiquities in the Palestinian
Authority, told the Associated Press. He added that excavating
archaeological objects from the West Bank without Palestinian sanction was in violation of an international
governs antiquities in occupied territories.
countered that it is responsible for custodianship of archaeology in the
West Bank and that it would return the artefacts to their original site when
the exhibition closes.
Museum is located in Jerusalem on Ruppin Boulevard, near the Israeli
Parliament, Knesset; entry to the museum costs 50 Israeli New Shekels for
adults and 25 Israeli New Shekels for children and can be purchased at the
museum or online.