From the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple 2000 years ago to the burnt houses in the Israeli settlements around the Gaza Strip: Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have been enlisted to join the search for missing persons in the houses and cars that were incinerated in the 7th October massacre.
The archaeologists were called to the challenging task by Colonel Yossi Cohen of the Gaza Division of the IDF, directed by Major Rabbi Shlomo Hazut, rabbi of the Gaza Division of the IDF. They have been employing the techniques and the knowledge they have acquired in archaeological excavations of burnt and destroyed ancient sites, and have discovered many signs of human remains, in the hope that they will provide certain evidence for the families regarding the fate of their loved ones.
For two weeks, the archaeologists have been combing and sieving the ash from the burnt houses in which families from Kibbutz Be'eri, Kfar Aza and Nir Oz were murdered, as well as the contents of the cars from the party at Kibbutz Re'im.
At first, the archaeologists, who were divided into different teams, looked for evidence of missing people, who were known to be in their house at the time of the murderous attack. When it became clear that the archaeological methods could contribute to identifying additional, previously not exposed, remains, it was decided that the Israel Antiquities Authority would examine the contents of all the burned houses and cars.
According to the archaeologists, “The archaeological methods employed at ancient sites are similar to the methods applied here, but it is one thing to expose 2000-year-old destruction remains, and quite another thing—heart-rending and unfathomable—to carry out the present task searching for evidence of our sisters and brothers in the settlements.”
Since the beginning of the task, the archaeologists have managed to find certain evidence of at least ten deceased persons, who were previously considered missing.
Some have since been buried, other evidence has been brought for examination at the Shura Base.
“Taking into account all the difficulty and the emotional challenges involved, our hope is that we can contribute to the certain identification for as many families as possible, regarding the fate of their loved ones,” says Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “I salute our archaeologists for their immediate agreement—by no means to be taken for granted—to take part in this difficult task. It is an honor and a great responsibility, that they are carrying out with great respect.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority is also committed to contributing to the war effort, by carrying out extensive educational programs and respite activities in many hotels throughout the country, to where families have been evacuated from the war zones.