The “Times of Israel” published an allegation attributed to an unnamed Israeli official claiming that Turkey had finally agreed to hand over an ancient inscription to Israel. The inscription, which was found in East Jerusalem, was taken to Istanbul during the Ottoman reign.
The article contended that the Siloam (Silwan) inscription, one of the most important Hebrew inscriptions which is currently at Turkey’s Istanbul Archaeological Museum, will be handed over to Israel.
However, the official Anadolu news agency, citing official Turkish sources, denied the allegation.
The inscription was found in 1880, when East Jerusalem was still under Ottoman rule. Israel had repeatedly asked Turkey to hand over the inscription, but Turkey rejected the request.
The allegations of the Israeli newspaper came after the recent visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey, which began on March 9; the first visit by an Israeli president since 2007.
The inscription is 2,700 years old, and the six-line inscription tells, in Biblical Hebrew, who built the building.
In 2007, the Israeli president -at that time- Shimon Peres asked Abdullah Gül to borrow the inscription to display it during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel. Despite Gül’s positive response at the time, the inscription remained in Istanbul.
In 2017, the Israeli minister of culture, Miri Regev, offered to transfer the inscription to Israel, but the proposal was rejected by Turkey.
The Israeli website claimed that the inscription represents direct evidence of the Bible’s account of the construction of King Hezekiah’s Tunnel (referring to one of the kings of the Kingdom of Judah) in occupied Jerusalem.
An Israeli official was quoted saying that Turkey agreed to send the inscription in return of something of equal value. Israel had allegedly offered to send an important historical and religious artifact, which is currently in an Israeli museum, to Turkey. It is most likely that the artifact is an ancient candlestick from the period of the Ottoman reign over Palestine, which lasted for nearly five centuries.
The inscription was discovered by the German archaeologist Konrad Schick, above a stone slab in the wall of the Silwan Tunnel, where water flows under the rocks from Ain Al-Daraj to the Hamra Pool.
The Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh, recently denied the allegation, and said that it was fake news. The prime minister confirmed that the Palestinian Foreign Minister had contacted his Turkish counterpart, who denied the news and confirmed that Turkey had kept the inscription.
Translated by Ahmed N. A. Almassri.