Abigail Klein Leichman
November 8, 2023

Archeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority usually dig up remains from thousands of years ago. Their finds help piece together a clearer picture of the civilizations that lived and died in the holy land.

Now, however, IAA archeologists have joined the efforts to search for remains from a fresh tragedy: the October 7 massacre in which Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel’s Gaza border communities.

Terrorists rampaged through these communities burning people alive, and also torching homes and cars.

At first, the team of 15 archaeologists was called in by Colonel Yossi Cohen of the Gaza Division of the IDF to seek evidence of missing people known to be in their homes at the time of the attacks.

After two weeks, it was decided to extend their archeological search to sifting through the ashes of burned houses of Kibbutz Be’eri, Kfar Aza and Nir Oz, and of the burned cars from the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im.

Using the techniques and knowledge they have acquired in excavations of destroyed ancient sites, the archeologists have so far discovered evidence of at least 10 deceased people previously considered missing.

Some have since been buried, while other specimens been brought to labs for further examination.

Archeologists aid search for human remains of Hamas attacks
Archeologists and soldiers searching for human remains in a burned house. Photo by Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority

“Taking into account all the difficulty and the emotional challenges involved, our hope is that we can contribute to the certain identification for as many as possible families regarding the fate of their dear ones,” says IAA Director Eli Escusido.

“I salute our archeologists for their immediate agreement — by no means to be taken for granted — to take part in this difficult task. It is an honor and a great responsibility, which they are carrying out with great respect.”

Archeologists aid search for human remains of Hamas attacks
Archeologists and soldiers searching ashes for human remains. Photo by Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority

Escusido said that the archeological methods employed at ancient sites are similar to the methods applied here, “but it is one thing to expose 2,000-year-old destruction remains, and quite another thing — heart-rending and unfathomable — to carry out the present task searching for evidence of our sisters and brothers in the communities.”  

The Israel Antiquities Authority, he added, is also committed to contributing to the war effort by offering educational programs and respite activities in many hotels throughout the country where families have been evacuated from the war zones.       

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