Bible Archaeology

Jerusalem Underground

No longer just standing next to the Wailing Wall, the only visible reminder of what the Temple was, but further down as well. At the level at which real life in Israel took place two thousand years ago. Before the year 70 a.C., when this sacred place was destroyed by the Roman legions of Titus after the Jewish revolt.

The underground vaults of the Old City has been one of the most talked about issues in recent weeks in Jerusalem, after the Israel Antiquities Authority – the agency that oversees archaeological excavations – announced its intention to open a new tunnel to the public by this summer in the Wailing Wall area. As you may recall that back in 1996 it was already possible to visit a section of the Wall extending less than 500 meters, starting from the Kotel (as the Jews call the Wall) and continuing north passing under the houses of the Muslim quarter.

Now – therefore – the idea is to add a new south facing section to the Wailing Wall square, passing under the walls of Jerusalem. This is actually an old drainage ditch that ran under the main road two thousand years ago. A road partially excavated in nearby Ir David, the archeological park which stands on what, according to archaeologist Eilat Mazar, is the ancient palace of Kind David. Where – apart from the entrance to the new underground passage – a third tunnel is already open to the public that reaches the pool of Siloam, the ancient water reservoir of the city of Jerusalem. The path in the gutter, therefore, would make it possible to bring together all three sections forming a unique underground tour of nearly two kilometers. It would run under one of the most politically hot areas of modern Jerusalem (the Arab neighborhood of Silwan) offering a kind of full-immersion into the Herodian age, an era of great splendor for ancient Jewish Jerusalem. The same era in which Jesus lived. Bearing all this in mind, it is understandable that the conditional should be used when speaking of the impending opening: even archaeology, in fact, has obvious political fallouts in the Holy City…

Read the rest in the Vatican Insider here.

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