Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama courtesy of The Bible Lands Museum   

Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama courtesy of The Bible Lands Museum


By Ilan Ben Zion - February 1, 2015

Originally appeared here in The Times of Israel

We know they sat on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and that they wept. But a new exhibit at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum puts faces and names to the Judean exiles in ancient Babylonia 2,500 years ago

“By the Rivers of Babylon” showcases a collection of about 100 rare clay tablets from 6th century Mesopotamia that detail the lives of exiled Judeans living in the heartland of the Babylonian Empire. Through these mundane Akkadian legal documents written in cuneiform, scholars have breathed life back into generations of Judeans who lived in Babylon but whose names and traditions speak of a longing for Zion.

The Al-Yahudu tablets are part of a private collection that has never before gone on public display. Their provenance is unknown; they likely turned up somewhere in southern Iraq, but no one knows when. After decades on the antiquities market they ended up in the hands of a private collector, David Sofer, who offered to loan them to the Bible Lands Museum. After two years of labor, the exhibit is opening to the public on Sunday.

“It puts a face on the real people who went through these fateful events,” Dr. Filip Vukosavović, curator of the exhibit, told The Times of Israel. The tablets preserve a wealth of Judean names — including the familiar Natanyahu — of the exilic community, and even include a handful of Aramaic inscriptions. Read More