JERUSALEM, Israel — Earlier this week Israeli archaeologists announced one of the most important discoveries in history.
For more than a hundred years, Israeli archaeologists have searched for the Greek fortress, known as Akra, from the time of the Maccabees, around 200 BC. Now they say they’ve found it.
The discovery answers a perplexing question about the ancient city of Jerusalem — a question that Israeli archeaelogists have been digging for for nearly a decade.
“We can now be more than positive we are facing part of the stronghold that used to house the upper part of the city of David in the time of Antiochus IV,” Doron Ben-Ami, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said.
Antiochus IV built the nearly 60-foot tall fortress in order to control Jerusalem. It also included a large ramp known as a Glasies. After he defiled the Jewish temple, the Macabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, revolted.
The excavation shows evidence of that revolt, including artifacts such as arrowheads with the inscriptions of Antiochus and sling stones. The discovery confirms the accounts of the historian Josephus and the book of Maccabees.
“In the book of Maccabees, it specifically says that the Akra fortress is built in the city of David,” said Rabbi Barnea Levi Selavan, an archeologist and Jerusalem-based tour guide.
It also fills in another big piece of the puzzle of ancient Jerusalem.
“Today, because of this discovery, we can connect other elements that were isolated thus far and put them all together to see the real fortress or stronghold here on the upper part of the city of David,” explained Ben-Ami.
Rabbi Selavan says these ancient stones give proof to a story that many have considered legend, much like Santa Claus.
“Yes Virginia, there is a Josephus and he said the Greeks made it a powerful fortress which controlled the city,” Barnea said. “The bravery of the Hasmoneans to take on the Greeks who were sitting there in Jerusalem, the bravery of the Hasmoneans to service in the Temple for 25 years while there’s Greek soldiers right there. At least we can serve God. So what if we don’t have political freedom, but we can serve God. What a message!”