A fascinating new exhibit has opened
at the Bible Lands Museum (BLMJ)
in Jerusalem, Israel, called
“By the Rivers of Babylon” or Al Naharot Bavel.
Though located across from the Israel Museum and near the Knesset,
I had not been inside the BLMJ for a few years.
The new exhibit starts with the story of the siege of Jerusalem
found in the Bible
and recorded on this ancient stone tablet.
This video begins with a warning
that there are indeed sad parts to the story.
The end of Jewish kings and life in Jerusalem,
and the end of the First Temple in 589 BCE.
Destruction so complete,
that the intense heat of the burning of Jerusalem
deformed this earthen storage jar.
The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia,
and there on the rivers of Babylon told their story,
for generation after generation.
Many Jews returned to Zion with the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah,
but many wealthy families remained.
Now 2500 years later,
these small cuneiform tablets finally tell us their story.
Though they look more like breakfast cereal or doggie biscuits,
these are well-preserved ancient business records of rentals, loans and taxes,
that parallel the names, places and dates of Biblical stories.
Over the centuries, Babylon became Iraq,
where descendants of those exiled Jews lived until 1950-1952,
when their communities were forced to leave for their safety.
For the first time in over two millennia
there are no Jews in exile in Babylon,
as they have returned to Zion.
As some try to rewrite history with “narratives,”
here are real records,
written in stone,
found and shown to public for first time
in this exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum.