Much has been published recently about the significance of a seal of Judean King Hezekiah that was found in Jerusalem’s Ophel dig at the foot of the Temple Mount. How it reinforces the veracity of the Bible; how while not the first of its type it is the first to be discovered in a controlled archaeological dig; speculation on why the design differs from well known Hezekiah “lamelekh” stamps and may be a later version, perhaps reflecting his gratitude to God at allowing his recovery from a serious illness described by Isaiah, the prophet of the time.
For those of you unfamiliar with the news story, the clay impression bears an inscription in ancient Hebrew script that translates as “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah” along with a two-winged sun flanked by two ankh symbols, symbolizing life.
(There were also the comments making their way via social media along the lines of “who knew that the occupation has been going on for so long…”. Wry, sad, infuriating. Take your pick, choose all. Sigh.)
Anyhow, what intrigued me was the line-up of women involved in the story. Firstly, Ophel director Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is a member of the closest thing to an Israeli royal family of archaeologists – foremost among them her grandfather Benjamin, who took out the first official State license in 1948 and uncovered much of the area around the Temple that she now concentrates on during her no less illustrious career.
Then there’s Efrat Greenwald, who actually discovered the seal in a wet sifting operation. (Full disclosure- her mom is a friend and I’ve been following Efrat’s career for years. This isn’t the first amazing Ophel find she’s made- among them a 3450 year old Akkadian chit with the earliest known mention of Jerusalem.)
And rounding it out is Reut ben Arye, whose brilliant reinterpretation of the seal is what thrust it back into headlines after being found 6 years ago.
What’s so interesting to me is how NOT a big deal it is that women are front and center in the saga. While so much is often made of the disproportionate ratio in the Biblical texts of (named) men to women (about 10:1 if I’m not mistaken), the modern school of study and the (literal) field of research of that time reflects a different reality of involvement.
Ironic corrections to the Iron Age? Maybe. But it struck me how great it is that here in Israel it’s an oft taken for granted norm, especially compared to the rest of our part of the world where so many females have few basic rights, let alone the freedom and respect that women rightly deserve for our contributions to society and scholarship.
When the day comes that Jerusalem based Eilat, Gush Etzion born Efrat and Shilo resident Reut can confab and collaborate with Aleppo based Aamal, Damascus born Daania and Baghdad resident Badai, we’ll know that all is well with the world.
Or at least shifting in the right direction.