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Trump pays in messiah money

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Browsing through the news feed on my phone the other day, the words “Breaking Israel” popped up. Something from BDS or Hamas? No — it was an article from , and the news was that the Pilgrim’s Road connecting the Shiloah Pool and the Temple Mount had been opened to the public.

These are bits of the ancient City of David underneath present-day East Jerusalem, where archaeologists have been digging for more than a century. The biblically and Zionistically inspired diggers are keen to find anything showing Israel was founded there by King David in the early Iron Age. They’ve found some old walls and terraces, but none have been dated conclusively to that period. Most seem to date from the days of King Hezekiah, about half a century after David is presumed to have lived, but still the City of David organisation uses that name for the disputed ruins, fudging the fact that they are probably much older.

The title of the piece on (conveniently abbreviated to BIN) is a fudge, too: “Recently Discovered Pilgrim’s Road in Jerusalem ‘Brings Truth and Science to a Debate that has Been Marred By Myths”’, it says. This is ironic: the archaeologists cheered on by are purveying the myth, and they don’t listen to archaeologists who insist on proper verification.

What’s weirder, though, is that the ad that pops up when you read this page is for the Limited Edition Trump Jerusalem Temple Coin. “As the next stage in the Messianic process,” we’re told, “the Sanhedrin of Israel released a new coin honoring King David in preparation for re-establishing the.”

The coin carries the profiles of United States President Donald Trump and Persian king Cyrus the Great. The latter let the Jews return to Israel after exile in the sixth century BCE. Trump is of the view that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel, and those awaiting the messiah and the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom obviously do too.

Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the spokesperson for the Sanhedrin, a revived religious body, is quoted thus: “We commemorate US President Donald Trump in connection with his Messianic activities. Donald Trump is the numerical value of the Messiah, the Son of David, who comes from Edom.”

If you’re confused about what the “numerical value” of the messiah might be, you will be more confused when you read down into the comments. Christians and Jews disagree vehemently about the messiah, though the article claims they agree on the “Judeo-Christian values” that underpin both Israel and the US.

The Trump coin, at least, echoes another element of the BIN story about the Pilgrim’s Road. It mentions some coins found during the excavations, dating from the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the 70s CE, which would end in the destruction of the city. The coins had little monetary value, apparently, but carry the legend: “For the freedom of Zion”. A doomed gesture of defiance, then, and belief in a fantasy future.

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Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

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