Where is King David's Garden? By Yonathan Mizrahi
Recently, some articles praising the archaeological significance of the Al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan have appeared in various newspapers, in attempt to justify the plan to demolish the 88 houses in the neighborhood. Most of the houses in the neighborhood, which is located at the feet of the archaeological site the “City of David”, have been built during the last 40 years without building permits. In 2005, the Jerusalem municipality was about to demolish the 88 houses, but owing to international pressure and intervention, the plan was shelved. It has now resurfaced..
The proponents maintain that besides the illegal status of the houses, the site has a great historical significance. They claim that Al-Bustan is the King's Garden as mentioned in the scriptures (Books of Kings, Ecclesiastes, and Nehemiah), and because of its rich history, the houses must be demolished, the past brought back to the surface, and the site transformed into another one of the touristic attractions in the area. It's important to notice that Al-Bustan neighborhood is not part of the “Holy Basin” national park, which includes the City of David.
The story of Al-Bustan is a direct follow-up to the dubious concept that any archaeological finding in the City of David belongs to King David himself. The archaeological site that exists on the slope above Al-Bustan and is known as the City of David reveals archaeological strata from the very foundations of Jerusalem 4000 years ago—a period identified by historians as the Canaanite period—and up till today. In the site, archaeological findings from 5000 years ago were excavated, findings which tell stories about many different lives, cultures and peoples that lived there before. The importance of the site is in its ability to teach us about the founding of Jerusalem and its development throughout the centuries.
Among the dozens of archaeological strata excavated in the City of David, there was no single evidence found that attested to the presence of King David, or in fact any Judea or other king. This doesn't rule out the fact that other kings existed in Jerusalem, but it does show that archaeology can't and shouldn't prove or disprove the presence of a particular king in a site. The search for the exact location of the King's Garden is no less a difficult task, if not an impossible one. No one knows where the garden was, a site which main finding is a grove of perished trees, and it seems that it would be impossible to conduct a serious archaeological research that could prove its exact place of existence.
During the twentieth century, archaeologists in Israel and around the world have come to the conclusion that archaeology cannot be used to corroborate the occurrence of events or the existence of characters in the bible. The search after sites where the stories in the bible had occurred is a romantic escapade, which stems from curiosity and religious belief. This endeavor is important, but it's a huge leap to declare that the Al-Bustan neighborhood has a great archaeological significance. Al-Bustan does not reside in any national park. Evidence to the existence of the King's Garden in Al-Bustan are absolutely not archaeological, and the state must not claim that the demolishing of houses is done in the name of archaeology. This is not what archaeology is for. The study of the past cannot replace life in the present.