The location of a major archaeological find that was kept secret until now will be revealed to the public on Friday, next week. The find is being touted as a royal castle that could have belonged to Israel's most celebrated king – the Bible's King David.
The find is a decorated carved stone known as "a proto-aeolic capital" that is connected to a column. Only 30 such capitals have been found in Israel so far, and only five of them were found in areas in which Biblical-era kings lived.
Unlike all of the other proto-aeolic capitals found in Israel – this one is not separate from the column but connected to it. The weight of the column and capital are estimated to be about five tons.
"For reasons that are not completely clear," wrote newspaper Makor Rishon when the find was first announced, "several authorities in Israel have decided to silence the find, which may mark a breakthrough in the perception of the period of King David and his son, Shlomo [Solomon], and of the entire Judean kingdom."
The site was identified by Binyamin Tropper, of the Kfar Etzion Field School, as he descended into a cave in the area of southern Jerusalem. The capital "apparently indicates that an entire temple or castle is buried beneath it," the newspaper added.
Mysteriously, when Kfar Etzion Field School Director Yaron Rosental contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority to inform them of the find, the person he spoke to reportedly simply said – "Yaron, good for you. You found it, but we already are aware of it. Now forget about the whole thing and keep your mouth shut."
Rosental said that he later found out that the IAA had known about the site for 18 months.
According to Rosental, excavation of the site has potential for uncovering a complete castle and possibly an entire neighborhood from the Judean kings' period, for the first time ever. "We appear to have a complete castle here," he said. "Those who lived here after it did not know of its existence and thus, instead of using its stones to build a new building as was the usual practice, left it intact." The details found inside could be "amazing."
The IAA confirmed to Makor Rishon that the find is an important one that appears to date to the period of Judean kings. However, the IAA added, the subject is "sensitive" and "requires serious and responsible handling."
The Kfar Etzion Field School has announced that it will disclose the location of the find next Friday, January 17, right after a joint Jewish-Arab event for planting trees along the proposed route of the section of the security barrier that is to be constructed nearby. The field school vehemently opposes the construction and says that it will cause irreparable damage to nature, harm the livelihood of local residents and create tensions between Jews and Arabs.
In addition, the planned route of the fence would leave the site of the archaeological find outside of Israeli-controlled territory, in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.
The IDF points out that the barrier is the last section of the security fence that remains to be built for protecting Jerusalem. It has also offered to assist the IAA in moving the proto-aeolic column into Israel.