Walk through a 2,000-year-old Jewish neighborhood: The Herodian Quarter in Jerusalem to reopen next month to the public

The remarkable archaeological site in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem called the Herodian Quarter has been renovated and upgraded with holograms, animations, and glass walkways (to enable visitors to walk through the antiquities) after two years of work and an investment of 18 million shekels.

The site – a residential neighborhood from the times of the Second Temple, covering an area of 2,600 square meters, including luxurious two-story homes, unique mosaics and frescos, streets, and many mikvehs (ritual baths) – was first revealed in archaeological excavations carried out by researchers from the Hebrew University led by Professor Nachman Avigad. The excavations were carried out after the liberation of Jerusalem and the Old City in the Six-Day War. In 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion destroyed most of the Jewish Quarter and exiled Jewish people from the Old City for 19 years. The silver lining of this brutal and destructive war was that in 1967 it became necessary to rebuild and excavate the Jewish Quarter which had thousands of years of Jewish history hidden under the ground. If it wasn’t for the Jordanian destruction, it is possible archaeologists wouldn’t have found so many gems just beneath the Jewish Quarter.

According to the archaeologists’ estimates, the neighborhood was used to house rich priests who worked in the temple and was built during the Herodian era. From the multitude of mikvahs and stone vessels found in the excavations, it is possible to learn about the strict adherence to purity laws that characterize priestly houses. The great wealth of the residents of the neighborhood is evident from the size of the houses, some of them with an area of 800 square meters, and from the magnificent decorations and mosaics that decorate them.

For the past two years, the site has been closed to develop infrastructure and upgrade the visitor experience with a significant investment, and it will be opened to the public starting on June 20th with prior reservations through the Jewish Quarter Tourism office. As part of the renovation, the remains of houses were rebuilt, the mosaics found were completed by artisans, and a special lighting and audio system was built, which will move with the visitor as he progresses through the site, illuminating various exhibits, with sounds in the background that recreate the experience of life in the quarter during the time of the Temple.

Herzl Ben Ari, CEO of the Jewish Quarter Development Company: “History comes alive in the Jewish Quarter. The renovated museum will make the Second Temple period accessible to all visitors and will give a glimpse of Jerusalem in its glory. I would like to thank the Ministry of Heritage, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Tradition, the Ministry of Tourism, the Wahl Foundation and the Samis Foundation for the support and funding for the special project. I invite all the people of Israel to come to the museum and connect with the glorious heritage of Jerusalem.”

Leah Bowman is a licensed guide in Israel and is completing an MA in Religion and Political Science at Bar Ilan University.

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