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Acts of God

Harvey stepped to the podium with all the swagger and self assurance of the old master
himself. True, Harvey had made some significant finds over the past four years, but four
years is still only four years. Moshe Lowenstein had been out there for decades and, while
Harvey referred to him as the dinosaur -a soon to be extinct roadblock to his own inevitable
ascendancy - to nearly everyone else in the field Moshe was known simply as the Master.
Remembering his postgraduate days at New York University as if they were yesterday,
Harvey looked out with some surprise at the fifty or so grad students who had come to hear
his dissertation on ancient Middle Eastern history. For a Friday afternoon, in the middle of
Kansas, this was an unexpectedly good turnout. He thanked Professor Horace Wolfe for the
warm welcome, cleared his throat and began:
“To deny a people the man whom it praises as the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be
undertaken lightheartedly – especially by one belonging to that people. No consideration,
however, will move me to set aside truth in favor of supposed national interest.”
“Good morning. I am Dr. Harvey Kessler. I open with those noble words, words that I am
sure many of you are familiar with, not because I am here to defend Freud‟s theory, a theory
which in fact I do not entirely agree with, but because the accumulation of hard evidence that
we now have at our disposal can no longer be buried, distorted, ridiculed or simply ignored.
As archaeologists and students of ancient history, it is our job to uncover clues about our past
in order to help us better understand who we are today, and where we are going both as
individuals and as a people. If we intentionally set out to rebury or alter these clues because
they do not fit with our particular mythology, then, in my humble opinion, we can no longer
call ourselves scholars and scientists.”
Before he could finish the sentence, there was a shuffling in the audience as several students
gathered their things and stood up to leave. Here we go again, thought Harvey.
“Ladies and gentlemen”, he said quietly, trying to remain calm, “Please, if we do not listen
we cannot learn. I ask you, as a matter of professional courtesy, to disregard what I have to
say only after I have said it. A couple of hours of your time is all I ask, and afterward, if you
like, you can throw the Book at me.” A few of the mutineers smiled and hesitated, but the
rest were moving even more briskly toward the door, some expressing their displeasure both
verbally and digitally.
“How can you call yourself scholars if you fear or ridicule opinions that…”
The entire hall reverberated as the door slammed behind them.
“…differ from your own.”
Harvey thanked the two who returned to their seats and continued. “Now, I would like to
show you a series of slides from our most recent digs in Jerusalem. The main site is just
outside the north wall of the old city, and the others are dwellings recently uncovered within
the walls that date from the early twelfth to late fourth centuries BC. These finds are both
exciting and controversial, as they seem to cast even more doubt on our current view of the
region‟s history.