A buried building near Jerusalem’s Western Wall is opening to travelers – here’s what it looks like

Christian travelers go to Jerusalem to retrace Jesus’ closing footsteps alongside the Via Dolorosa, Muslims to revere the Dome of the Rock, and Jewish folks to insert written prayers into the cracks of the Western Wall.

Some folks do all three.

Come December, travelers may have a brand new possibility obtainable to them when visiting Jerusalem. They can go underground to expertise a portion of the Old City as it existed some 2,000 years in the past.

An underground building

Following an excavation that lasted greater than 150 years, a buried building constructed round A.D. 20 is set to open to the general public this 12 months.

The subterranean building is positioned steps from the Western Wall, a retaining wall on the western facet of the Temple Mount, which is the holiest web site in Judaism and the place the place Jerusalem’s First and Second Temples as soon as stood.

About 10% of the unique Western Wall is seen at present, with most buried behind development within the Old City’s Muslim Quarter in addition to beneath the bottom.


The Western Wall is additionally one of many high websites for travelers to Israel. It attracted 12 million guests in 2019, mentioned Eyal Carlin, the tourism commissioner for North America for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

The excavated space dates to the interval of the Second Temple, which was initially constructed in sixth century B.C. and later vastly expanded by Herod the Great, who dominated Jerusalem from 37 to 34 B.C. The Romans destroyed the temple round A.D. 70.

The new chambers are positioned underneath Wilson’s Arch, an archway that after supported a bridge main to the Second Temple, seen right here within the decrease, left nook.

Christopher Chan | Moment | Getty Images

What travelers can see

To attain the brand new areas, guests descend staircases which can be like a journey by means of time, Carlin instructed CNBC.

“When you dig down, you literally go down through history,” mentioned Carlin. “Each layer represents different parts of history and different centuries.”

A portion of the steps used to attain the newly excavated areas.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

“You go down to the Ottoman period, the Muslim period, the Crusader period … all the way down to the Herodian period,” he mentioned, referencing the reign of King Herod and his heirs, from 37 B.C. to 73 C.E.

Support beams reinforce the hallway between the 2 chambers of the traditional underground building.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archeologists knew one chamber existed, however excavations uncovered a bigger building with two an identical rooms separated by a courtyard.

The building might have been a metropolis council building, mentioned Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, excavation director on the Israel Antiquities Authority, in a press launch printed by the Israel Ministry of Tourism in August. She known as the excavated space “one of the most magnificent public buildings from the Second Temple period that has ever been uncovered.”

One of two chambers of a building found outdoors the Western Wall.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Historians imagine the chambers have been reception rooms for dignitaries, rich guests and members of the excessive priesthood, mentioned Carlin.

They may additionally have been locations to eat. Archaeologists imagine that the rooms as soon as contained reclining sofas, the place folks would eat mendacity down, as was widespread within the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman eras, in accordance to Weksler-Bdolah.

“It’s very opulent — these were big chambers with big decorative elements of water flowing,” mentioned Carlin. “It displays the affluence of that area at the time … and the people who were greeted there.”

The second excavated chamber, which is constructed utilizing arched stone ceilings.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archeologists discovered a small ritual purification pool, known as a mikvah, which clergymen and aristocrats doubtless used earlier than visiting the Second Temple.

“Those are the steps going down” into the pool, he mentioned, which “usually would be filled with water brought from springs.”

Steps main right into a purification pool, or mikvah, which is believed to have been added a few years after the excavated building was constructed.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

The mikvah would not be open to the general public, mentioned Carlin. Members of most of the people cleansed themselves within the Pool of Siloam, positioned a couple of third of a mile away. That is the identical pool the place Jesus was mentioned to have restored the eyesight of a blind man, as referenced within the Gospel of John within the Christian Bible. 

The room with the mikvah was a part of an “elite gateway” into the Second Temple, mentioned Israel Ministry of Tourism’s Eyal Carlin.

Israel Antiquities Authority

Past the baths, guests can see the muse stones of the Western Wall, mentioned Carlin. The stones are huge, with some weighing upwards of 250 tons.

Jerusalem is, in elements a minimum of, a metropolis constructed on high of different cities. Existing buildings grew to become basements or underground dwelling areas for brand spanking new development constructed on high, in accordance to an article in The Times of Israel.

Hallways contained ornate pilasters, or decorative columns, that have been topped with Corinthian capitals with water pipes constructed within them.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

That’s why elements of the underground buildings have been discovered utterly intact. Decorative components “were found whole,” mentioned Carlin. “There were parts that were chipped, but the elements we see were not reconstructed.”

Excavations are ongoing in Jerusalem, however many do not open for excursions, mentioned Carlin.

“There’s great excitement because [this area] is accessible to the general public,” he mentioned. “It’s also shedding light on what life was back then in one of the most important periods of the Jewish people.”

Touring the brand new space

Visitors can see the brand new underground areas by means of guided excursions booked by means of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a non-profit governmental physique that manages the Western Wall.

The opening, which was initially set for August, was rescheduled to coincide with the celebration of Hannukah in early December, mentioned Carlin.

The ornate stays of the building positioned outdoors the Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall.” The latter time period is falling out of favor, as some deem it as making mild of the Jewish neighborhood’s mourning over the lack of the Second Temple.

Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

He mentioned that is “good timing” in additional methods than one.

“If everything goes according to plan this week or early next week, and our government approves the reentry of tourists to Israel … that will actually coincide when the majority of the world can … travel to Israel.”

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