Set in stone

In May 2021, Israel mourned the passing of one of the greatest archaeologists, our country has ever seen. Only 64 on the day of her death, Dr Eilat Mazar spent her life with a trowel in one hand and a bible in the other, a heritage passed onto her by her grandfather, the Biblical archeologist Benjamin Mazar, who after the Six-Day-War, conducted Israel’s first excavations at the Western Wall. 

Eilat is credited with discovering some of the greatest Biblical finds ever unearthed in Israel. Modestly, and astutely, she put her achievements down to what she learned from her grandfather, namely, that the Hebrew Bible contains historical reality. For days on end she would study the text before even sticking her trowel in the soil.  For Eilat, the Bible was a treasure chest that contained the riches and the whereabouts, and it was these which connected the history of Israel with the modern Israeli state.

Her first major dig was back in the 1980’s at the then rather paltry City of David. Over the years, the little site, morphed into the enormous and now illustrious archaeological site which became her second home. To the delight of Jews worldwide, Eilat discovered a building which she proposed matched the palace originally built by King David and was later used by the Kings of Judea. As the digs continued she uncovered a copper scroll, pottery sherds and a clay seal with the name “Yehuchal the son of Shelemiah,” who in Jeremiah 37:3, says that King Zedekiah sent him to the prophet to pray for the people. 

Eilat became the envy and fascination of archaeologists worldwide. Unstoppable, and driven by the Biblical text, she soon unearthed a gateway and tower dated to the time of King Solomon and another seal with bearing the name of King Hezekiah – a discovery that proved to her skeptics beyond doubt, that ancient Jerusalem was the Judean capital of the ancient Jewish world. As if that wasn’t enough, she even found another seal, bearing what seems to be the name of the prophet Isaiah. Although not conclusive, the seal sparked huge interest, and rightly so. If indeed Jeremiah is the name inscribed on the seal, it is the first ever discovery of the name of a prophet in the Hebrew Bible. 

Archeology was more than a job for Eilat Mazar. Nearly everyone she worked with testified how she would call them after finding a Biblical treasure. Her passion was impossible to hide. Her voice would tremble with excitement. 

The unstoppable Eilat will go down in Israeli history, not just as the granddaughter of one of Israel’s most brilliant archeologists, but as a person who through sheer guts and hard work, devoted her life to the defence of Jewish Biblical history. It is thanks to her professionalism and contagious enthusiasm that this present generation of young archaeologists have taken up the baton  eager to continue her work, and make sure that Israel’s past and present will always be set in stone.