There is now a Time Magazine report on the archaeological excavation at Tel es-Safi, the Arab village destroyed and ethnically cleansed by the Israeli Defence Forces in 1948, but now heavily populated by North American and South Korean biblical archaeologists who believe they are in “Gath”.
(“Gath” in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament is not so much an historical site as a legendary place. Depending on the particular biblical story, “Gath” floats between the northern regions of Philistine territory and the southern Negev. Therefore, if there is a “Gath” lying under Tel es-Safi, it would show that at least one portion of the biblical accounts about Gath are quite inaccurate. But, you might object, hasn’t the name of “Goliath” been found at Tel es-Safi? Well, no. Contrary to reports, the name “Goliath” has not been found at Tel es-Safi. What was found were two names that are clearly not “Goliath”: ‘WLT and WLT. All this shows is that, under Tel es-Safi is probably a Philistine settlement – not Gath, and not a hometown of any “Goliath”.)
The Time Magazine article (Ted Newcombe, “Biblical Bad Guy: Archaeologists Excavate Goliath’s Hometown”, 13 July 2011) appears on the surface to contain the usual angle of media stories on Tel es-Safi: that this is Goliath’s hometown: “Any one of thousands of smooth stones being excavated at Gath could be the one that toppled Goliath, the giant conquered by David via a slingshot outside the city.” It also makes wild links between features at Tel es-Safi and various biblical passages – archaeology with a spade in one hand and the Bible in the other.
But in the middle of the article, seemingly quite unrelated to anything written there, is a revealing Time video report on the cultural and ideological impact of the Israeli achaeology industry: “Archaeology Digs Up Controversy in Jerusalem”. The report notes the continued destruction of Palestinian homes to make way for Israeli tourist-archaeology:
The world, when they hear about the King’s Garden, the area that King Solomon was in when he wote the Song of Songs [sic], an area that has an essential role in the biblical period [sic], has enormous international ramifications for understanding the Bible [sic!].
- An Israeli tourist-archaeologist
Why me? Why my neighbourhood? Because I am Arabic? Because I have no power? Because they have the power, they have the police, they have their government.
- An Arab who is dismayed to find out he is now living in the area that King Solomon was in, when he wrote the Song of Songs