Jerusalem – At a secret meeting held last week between Turkish ambassador to Israel Namik Tan and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky, the latter asked that Turkey return to Israel the Shiloah Tunnel Inscription, one of the most important archaeological findings for Judaism.
This ancient stone inscription at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is a highly significant slice of history for the Jewish people: A stone on which historical testimony from the First Temple period is inscribed in Hebrew.
The Shiloah Inscription was discovered in Jerusalem in 1880, and it serves as evidence of the regime of King Hezekiah in Jerusalem and of the manner in which he fortified the city against threats from the Assyrians. The inscription describes the hewing of the Shiloah Tunnel, an operation that was conducted with the purpose of guaranteeing a water supply to the region even in the event of a siege. The inscription supports the description of events in the biblical books of II Kings and Chronicles.
For thousands of years, the inscription remained in the tunnel until it was taken to Istanbul at the end of the Ottoman Empire’s rule over Israel in 1917.
Over the course of the 120 years since the inscription was discovered, tens of thousands of visitors and tourists have continued to visit the tunnel, but the inscription itself remained in Turkey. Now senior Jerusalem officials are asking that it be returned to its native site.
However, the Hague Convention, signed in 1954, forbids the transfer of cultural assets from country to country.
But this convention is not retroactive and is not applicable to what was taken during the Ottoman period. Lupoliansky noted that although by law Turkey is not required to return the item, he is asking that it do so as a gesture of goodwill between nations.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007