I am always on the lookout for the latest archeological discoveries in Israel or the ancient near east. This season Christians think of Bethlehem, David’s ancestral home and the birthplace of Jesus according to the gospels. Since last Christmas, a find near Bethlehem has come to public attention. It is a heavy pillar that dates from the eighth or ninth century B.C.E. It marks an ancient underground water tunnel. So there must have been a city or agricultural settlement nearby.
Bethlehem means House of Bread. And the agricultural nature of this area plays a part in the Book of Ruth. A big irrigation project in the area would fit with that.
However, because of politics the pillar probably will not get dug up. It is in a Palestinian area. This article in the Times of Israel explains:
“Archaeology in the Holy Land has long been caught up in modern-day politics. The Zionist movement always viewed unearthing remnants of the ancient past as a way of proving the depth of Jewish roots in the land. Palestinians, for their part, have increasingly taken to denying the existence of any ancient Jewish history and tend to condemn all archaeology conducted by Israel as an attempt to cement political control.
Palestinians would thus be unlikely to be sympathetic to the discovery of a new site of significance to Israel on land they claim for a future state.”
Sensitivity to this problem caused the Israeli Antiquities Authority to keep the existence of this find secret for years. A tour guide who knew about the pillar and thinks it should be excavated finally went to the press this year.