Fighting for the Future of Archeology

For the past 20 years, Gidon Suleimani has worked as an archeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority. But he left after what he describes as a selling out to the agenda of the political right. He said, “Twenty years ago, Elad [a private settler organization] began to manage the City of David National Park in Silwan [just outside the Jerusalem Old City walls] and the Ateret Cohanim and Fund for the Kotel Heritage began injecting vast funds into excavations.

Suleimani said, “The Israel Antiquities Authority sold out to them in a joint step that put at their disposal Israel’s professional body. The Authority now has a right-wing agenda completely focused on layers of ancient Jewish sovereignty from the biblical and Second Temple period and ignoring Muslim, Christian, and Pagan layers.”

When he realized that that was the sole narrative presented by the Authority’s archeological findings, Suleimani drew the conclusion that the Authority could no longer be his home and, together with like-minded archeologists Yoni Mizrachi and Rafi Greenberg as well as Palestinian activists in Silwan, he set up NIF-supported Emek Shaveh – Archeology in the Shadow of the Conflict. The organization fights against the use of archeological heritage sites as a political instrument in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and works to protect archeological sites as public asset belonging to everybody.

As a main part of its activities, in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Emek Shaveh conducts alternative tours speaking out against using archeological assets for political ends and in the case of the City of David National Park, as an attempt to dispossess Arab residents.

He said, “Thousands of tourists come here and are given the impression that this is only an ancient Jewish site. It ignores the reality of the Palestinian neighborhood around the site, which suffers from it.

He added, “We see archeology as a means to bridge cultures and bring together people. We believe that archeological findings do not need to prove ownership of a place by whatever people or religion, and that things could be done differently.”

September 2016