Jerusalem’s residents and its visitors often share a common “disease”—uncontrollable love of Jerusalem. Most of the City of David Expedition staff have contracted this disease, and the two authors of this article have a particularly bad case.
Mendel Kaplan is a South African who frequently visits Jerusalem and was looking for a way to actively involve himself, his family, and several other South African families in the discovery and reconstruction of Jerusalem’s past. Kaplan is not a professional archaeologist, but he became the motivating force behind renewed excavations in the City of David. He is driven by the idea that Judaism is more than religious observance or faith. For Kaplan, Judaism is a connection to the past—to the exodus from Egypt and the settlement in Canaan and to the Biblical personalities. Kaplan believes that just as one returns nostalgically to the home of parents and grandparents, so archeology enables us to peer into our more remote past.
At an early stage, Yigal Shiloh of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology was asked to head the excavations. In 1977 he met in South Africa with additional potential sponsors of the project. He says it felt both strange and gratifying to appear in places like Johannesburg and Cape Town, and to find—so far from Jerusalem—people who knew so much about the Holy City and its problems, who were so familiar with the mass of materials relating to its history, who asked such knowledgeable questions and who, in the end, pledged themselves to help finance the City of David project over a five year period.