(source: Jerusalem Post) May 31st, 2010 CAIRO: Mount Sinai is one of Egypt’s most popular tourist destinations. Christians, Jews and interested travelers flock to the Saint Katherine church situated at the base of the mountain in preparation for the three hour climb to the top.
This is where Moses supposedly received the Ten Commandments and the message of God was transformed into Judaism. The lore surrounding the biblical mountain has given the faithful a chance at getting a little bit closer to the divine.
However, that could all change, as an Italian-Israeli archaeologist has put forward a theory that the real Mt. Sinai is not in Egypt’s Sinai Peninusla, but instead in Israel’s Negev desert.
According to an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Professor Emmanuel Anati believes his controversial view will soon be adopted by the Vatican.
Last Friday, Anati revealed his theory in the form of a book at a seminar at the Theological Seminary in the Italian city of Vicenza.
“Actually it’s not a theory, it’s a reality. I’m sure of it, Anati told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from his home in Capo di Ponte. “My archeological discoveries at Har Karkom over many years and my close reading of the Bible leave me with no doubt that it is the real Mount Sinai. I’m now sure that Karkom is the real mountain of God.”
In a 2001 book published by Anati titled “The Riddle of Mount Sinai – Archaeological Discoveries at Har Karkom,” he hypothesized that Karkom was the true Mt. Sinai.
“I know this is revolutionary,” he conceded. “I’m not only changing the location, but I’m moving Mount Sinai to Israel, and I’m sure it will anger the Egyptians. But Israel should be proud of this. The Negev is empty and should be developed.
“I’m also changing the date of the Exodus from Egypt to some 1,000 years earlier than previously thought,” he added. “I know this will drive everyone crazy. But I am right. I’m sure of it.”
It is not the first time that opposing accounts of Egypt’s claim to Mt. Sinai have come forward. A number of years ago, another theory began to surface that the real mountain was in northern Saudi Arabia. A group of British journalists said that they had stumbled upon a dark mountain surrounded by armed police who refused to allow them to take photographs of the area.
This led to theories that the Saudi government was hiding the true nature of the mountain, but little support for the theory surfaced.
Anati is arguing that his account of Mt. Sinai being in the Negev is based on historical research and is accurate.
He said that evidence has revealed that Mt. Karkom had been an important pilgrimage and holy place for desert peoples, not only Jews, but all religious people in the area at the time.
“When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they reached the Arava. They couldn’t have been in Santa [Catarina], because it says in the Bible that they reached Nahal Tzin, and moved on to Hebron,” Anati said. “The whole story of receiving the Torah must have taken place in the Negev. The Children of Israel wandered in the north and not the south, in the Negev and not the Sinai.”
The idea, which seems to be getting traction within the Catholic Church, could see millions of pilgrims heading to Mt. Karkom in Israel instead of Mt. Sinai in Egypt.
There has been no official statement on the matter from the Vatican and most archaeologists have come out skeptical over the matter, but Anati argued the church is taking him seriously.
“Actually, they have already accepted my theory,” he said. “They are already organizing pilgrimages. There is already a plan, and I have meetings scheduled with theologians and others, including the Vatican pilgrimage office. They want to start pilgrimages to Karkom as soon as next year.”
American archaeologist Isaac Nieman, who works in Munich, told Bikya Masr that while the theory is interesting, the reality is “people will never truly know where the mountain is.”
The Biblical scholar argued that Anati is simply attempting to make a political statement on where people will travel and by moving the mountain from Egypt “he is going after a long tradition that the Torah was handed to Moses in Egypt. It makes logical sense that Sinai is where the mountain is. It is all a political game.”
He argued that although the research is extensive, the claims and evidence are “put together in a way that is not exactly accurate and is, like all science, theory. We should not be surprised, but there has to be much, much more research before the entire world accepts a theory such as this.”