What we found when we crawled under Jerusalem

On the night of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av, date of the destruction of  Temple), I set out with my son Barkai to explore a tunnel that had been excavated in the 19th century by the British archaeologists Bliss and Dickie, intending to explore its entire length.

After a long and arduous crawl, some of which I had to do on my side for lack of space, my son, who was crawling ahead of me, said that he saw a pit in front of us. After he descended into the pit, I followed him. To our amazement, we discovered that we were in the channel that drained water from Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period. Most of the channel was blocked with debris and dirt that had accumulated during 2,000 years of destruction. At the point where we stood, however, it was possible to enter the channel.

Josephus, the great historian of the Second Temple period, relates that on the ninth of Av in the year 70 CE, after the destruction of the Temple, the last 2,000 fighters who had defended Jerusalem descended into this drainage channel and hid there from the Romans. According to his description, the Romans broke the pavement, descended into the drainage channel under the street, and killed the last defenders who were hiding there. Indeed, later on, during the excavations that we conducted to clean the channel, we found places where it was apparent that the pavement had been broken intentionally. We also found a Roman sword still in its scabbard, unbroken dishes, a stone engraved with a picture of the Menorah of the Temple, and other findings that support the account of Josephus.

To me it was very symbolic that on the day that we commemorate the destruction of the Second Temple and the loss of the Jewish people’s independence, my son and I — residents of the City of David in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel — found this moving testimony to the destruction of the Temple. The remnants of the destruction were juxtaposed with the beginnings of redemption.

(Image by Elad Weinatein, GFDL, https://he.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1137336)

David (David'le) Be'eri

Posted by David (David'le) Be'eri

David (David’le) Be’eri is the director of Elad – The Ir David Foundation, which operates the City of David National Park and works to strengthen the connection of Jews to ancient Jerusalem and the City of David. This nonprofit organization strives to achieve its goals through tourism activities, archaeological excavations, educational programs for students and soldiers, research, and residential revitalization. In 2017, on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, David Be’eri was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement for his work in the City of David.  

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