By Judy Lash
Click photo to download. Caption: The Jerusalem Archaeological Park – Davidson Center. Credit: Nemo/Wikimedia Commons.
thousands will visit the Old City on May 8 for Jerusalem Day, the anniversary
of the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. While celebrations
go on above ground, new excavations underneath and around the Old City are
being uncovered and opened to the public, peeling back layers of history and
expanding understanding of events in the center of the Jewish universe.
Old City expert Rabbi
Barnea Selevan, a veteran licensed tour guide and co-director of Foundation Stone, is excited about a series of archeological digs taking place in
the vicinity of the Western Wall. For the past several years, the Western Wall
Heritage Foundation has
sponsored excavations at the back of the plaza, and workers have uncovered part
of a Roman colonnaded street dating back to the 2nd century C.E.
But what was
ignored until recently, according to Selevan, are several small stone
buildings, overgrown and blocked by material from the dig.
“When I look
down from the street in front of the Chabad building several levels above the
site, those old walls are the most exciting thing I see,” Selevan tells JNS.org. “There’s no question they’re
from First Temple times.” Seals from the Temple were found nearby. The walls,
according to some archeologists, are from homes that were abandoned but not
destroyed by the Roman onslaught on Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
that the streets exposed at the back of the plaza lead to the Temple Mount in
the Robinson’s Arch area and provide evidence that the Romans stayed in
Jerusalem and used the Temple Mount during the early Roman period.
Plans call for
further excavations underneath the plaza and then to open the underground area,
much as the Western Wall tunnels have been open to the public since the 1990s.
Selevan says that excavations are continuing in the tunnel area too, and
beautiful rooms with ornate capitols from First and Second Temple times are
being prepared to be open to the public.
Click photo to download. Caption: The “fancy Roman bathouse” discovered two stories underground on Ha’omer Street in Jerusalem. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.
Jewish Quarter that lies above the Western Wall Plaza, Selevan recounts the
“delicious” discovery of a “fancy Roman bathouse” two stories underground on
Ha’omer Street, that was found in the course of construction of a new mikveh (ritual
bath) for men. “In all likelihood, the bathhouse was used by the Roman 10th
Legion—the same guys who thought they were wiping out the Jews,” he says.
Baruch, Jerusalem District Archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority,
reveals that despite the extensive archaeological excavations in the Jewish
Quarter, so far not even one building has been discovered there that belonged
to the Roman legion.
“The absence of
such a find led to the conclusion that Aelia Capitolina, the Roman city
established after the destruction of Jerusalem, was small and limited in area,”
he tells JNS.org.
“The new find,
together with other discoveries of recent years, shows that the city was
considerably larger than we previously estimated,” Baruch says. “Information
about Aelia Capitolina is extremely valuable and can …read more