A 2,600-year-old clay tablet bearing the name “Benayahu ben Netanyahu” will be loaned to the Prime Minister’s Office for the coming year.
Dated 511 BCE, the artifact was etched during the Babylonian exile, after the destruction of the biblical First Temple. The tablet will be shown by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visiting dignitaries to underline the long history of the Jewish people and their exile from Israel.
The clay tablet is part of the Al-Yahudu collection, dating from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, owned by Cindy and David Sofer and on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.
Experts in cuneiform writing, one of the world’s earliest scripts, say the collection of 110 cracker-sized clay tablets provides the earliest written evidence of the Biblical exile of the Judeans in what is now southern Iraq, offering new insight into a formative period of early Judaism.
On May 13, Jerusalem Day, the government held a special meeting in the Bible Lands Museum, and curators surprised the prime minister by showing him the tablet bearing his name. The tablet also contains the names of other descendants of exiles from Jerusalem, Neriah ben Ahikam and Haggai ben Matanya.
Netanyahu is unlikely to be a descendant of the Netanyahu on the tablet as the prime minister’s father changed his last name from Benzion Mileikowsky when he arrived in Israel from Poland.
Netanyahu already has a collection of ancient artifacts that he shows to visitors. American rock band Aerosmith visited the prime minister after a May concert and he showed them a signet ring from an official working for the biblical king Hezekiah who was named Netanyahu ben Yoash. He told the band that these artifacts show that “we’ve been here a long time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.