Thursday, June 28, 2012

From Diana Muir Appelbaum:
An interesting contest is being waged over a Judean hilltop known as Betar or Battir.

This hilltop village with a system of stone-walled hillside terraces has been nominated by the Palestinian Authority for recognition as a World Heritage Site, and has won the Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes, awarded by UNESCO.

...The World Heritage site nomination caught the attention of a number of commentators since the village is best known under the older, Hebrew version of the name: Betar. Betar was the military headquarters of the Bar Kochba Revolt, a Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 135 CE, and it was that revolt’s last stronghold. When Betar fell, the defenders and their leader, Shimon Bar Kochba, were killed. The event is commemorated by the villagers who call the ancient defensive tower “Khirbet el-Yahud”, “the Jewish ruin”.

...The ancient village dated back to the Iron Age and the archaeological discovery of a “Lmlk” seal impression establishes that it was part of the Judean kingdom in the eighth century BCE. The site was abandoned after the battle. Bar Kochba apparently chose the small, hilltop farming village because it has a constant spring of water and was on a defensible hilltop beside the Jerusalem-Gaza road. The archaeological survey done in 1993 by David Ussishkin (D. Ussishkin, “Archaeological Soundings at Betar, Bar-Kochba’s Last Stronghold”, Tel Aviv 20, 1993, pp. 66-97) reports that the the Jewish liberation fighters hastily threw up crude stone fortification walls, incorporating parts of the walls and buildings of the Jewish village.

In effect if not in intent, UNESCO has awarded the Mercouri prize to a set of retaining walls at least the upper tier of which belonged to an ancient Jewish village.

The Jewish claim to the land is that Jews are the original people of the land, as attested by the ancient Jewish kingdoms.

The Arab claim to the land is that they are the indigenous people of the land, as attested by farming villages like this one. It is not an unreasonable claim, but perhaps nominating an ancient Jewish village for UNESCO World heritage Status is not the most effective way to make it.
Some of David Ussishkin's research from Betar is online. He notes:
The line of the fortification wall, dating apparently to the time of the Second Revolt, is visible along most part of the site and was studied in the excavations. The northern part of the summit which was not settled was left outside the walled area. The city-wall was built as a retaining wall, its lower part supported by a fill on the inside, thus resembling a terrace on the hilly slope. It contained several semi-circular buttresses or towers (see picture), and at least one rectangular buttress or tower on the western side. Apparently built in a hurry, the wall was carelessly and inconsistently constructed.
So indeed the upper terrace is of Jewish origin, and was not meant to be a terrace at all but a fortification.

The Hebrew LMLK seal found on pottery in Betar establishes it as a Jewish town nearly a millennium before the Bar Kochba revolt, as the many LMLK-stamped artifacts are all from around the time of King Hezekiah, around 700 BCE. LMLK means "for the King."

Any way you look at it, Betar is Jewish. Which is almost certainly why the Palestinian Arabs choose it to commemorate "Palestinian history."

Because they want to erase Jewish history.

UPDATE: See also My  Right Word.

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