Stephen M. Flatow

Mel Brooks – we got you beat!


This week’s announcement that Israeli archaeologists have uncovered two ancient document-sealers might, at first glance, appear to be of little interest outside a small segment of the scientific community. In fact, the discoveries offer powerful new evidence of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel — and they shed surprising new light on the status of Jewish women in ancient times.

Uncovered during a recent archaeological excavation in Jerusalem, the two seals date to “the late 8th century or early 7th century BCE,” according to Dr. Christopher A. Rollston of George Washington University (see his detailed analysis of the seals). In other words, they’re more than 2,700 years old.

Advocates of the Palestinian Arab cause claim that they are the original inhabitants of the Holy Land. If that were true, then surely the writing on the seals and other ancient artifacts would make reference to “Palestine” or would have the names of “Palestinian” individuals.

Yet they never do, and the latest discoveries are no exception. The writing is in “the standard Old Hebrew script,” Dr. Rollstone writes. Hebrew. Not Arabic or any other language connected to Arabs or Muslims. One of the seals bears the name of man, “Sa’adyahu ben Shebnayahu.” The other is the name of a woman: “Elihanah bat Goel” (or Gael). Those are Jewish names.

The seals offer vivid, indisputable evidence of a Jewish presence –indeed of an organized Jewish society– in the region nearly 3,000 years ago. And what was that region’s name? Did anybody call it “Palestine” or the “West Bank”? Of course not. Dr. Rollston notes that the construction of the man’s name was “in typical Judean fashion for this time period.”

Careful, Dr. Rollston! The name “Judea” is of course the correct historical name, but nowadays if you dare to respect history, you risk being called an “extremist” or an “ultra-nationalist.”  You know, like the extremist, ultra-nationalist Hebrew Bible.

The fact that Ms. or Mrs. Elihanah bat Goel had her own seal is also revealing. It was “quite rare for women to have seals” in those days, Dr. Rollston points out. But “the reason was not because, as some have apparently suggested, because of the ‘generally inferior economic status of women’…[I]t was because Near Eastern Societies were patriarchal. For this reason, men were normally responsible for most of the agreements that would require the sealing of documents.”

Obviously, ancient Jewish society was patriarchal. We can’t project our contemporary attitudes back onto ancient cultures. Yet it is striking that in the Jewish world, there were more than a few exceptions concerning the status of women. Dr. Rollston mentions Job’s daughters, the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27) and the Noble Wife (Proverbs 31). And there were others — including, apparently, our nearly 3,000-year old Zionist pioneer, Elihanah bat Goel.

“The fact that one of these seals is that of a woman demonstrates that she was a very prominent woman indeed, someone who must have engaged in business and legal activities that necessitated her owning a seal,” Dr. Rollstone points out.

That was more than 2,700 years ago. Now compare that to the status of women in the Muslim Arab world who are today subjected to a fundamentalist Islamist morality. Think about the women in Saudi Arabia who are not even allowed to drive. Think about the Palestinian Arab women who are frequently murdered in “honor killings” by friends or relatives.

Archaeology certainly can be very revealing. These two little ancient seals remind us that the Jewish-Zionist presence in the Land of Israel long predated that of the Palestinian Arabs–and that today’s Islamists have introduced abhorrent practices, such as the oppression of women, that haunt the world today.

About the Author
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America- Mizrachi (not affiliated with any Israeli or American political party) and the father of Alisa Flatow who was murdered by Iranian sponsored Palestinian terrorists in April 1995. He is the author of "A Father's Story: My Fight For Justice Against Iranian Terror."
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