Daily Israel Report

2nd-Temple Jewish Town Uncovered in Jerusalem

In the course of preparing tracks for a new light-rail system, remains of an ancient Jewish community north of the Holy Temple have been uncovered.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/13/2007, 12:26 PM

In the course of preparing tracks for the new light-rail system in Jerusalem, remains of an ancient Jewish community just north of the Holy Temple have been uncovered.

Rescue digs, required by law before any major construction work in Jerusalem and environs, have found a major set of remains of a Jewish town from post-Second Temple times. A long strip of land, 400 dunams (100 acres) in size, has been uncovered in which can be seen roads, alleys, houses, public buildings, a mikveh (ritual bath), and more.

The community was located east of the old Roman highway leading from Jerusalem to Shechem (Nablus) - roughly along the same route as today's Shechem Way, or Highway 60. 

Evidence shows that the community - the largest from that period yet uncovered in the Jerusalem vicinity - was inhabited by a well-to-do and religiously observant populace. In addition to the mikveh, many stone utensils were found - popularly used because they could not become ritually defiled, according to Jewish Law.

Many coins were also found, including a rare gold one (pictured above) depicting Trainus Caesar (98-117 CE). Trainus began his reign 30 years after the Second Temple was destroyed. Antiquities Authority dig manager Rachel Bar-Natan said that this was only the second coin of its type found in Israel, and the first one within the Green Line.

Nearly 1,000 4th-to-6th graders have visited the site on school trips.

The site was first discovered during infrastructure work for the light-rail system being built in Jerusalem by the Moriah Company.

In a related item, the National Infrastructures Planning and Construction Committee of the Interior Ministry has made its choice from among five alternatives for the establishment of Jerusalem's fifth water supply line. The project, which will be one of Israel's largest over the coming decade, will involve the placing of an 8-foot wide pipe deep underground, running from south of Rehovot to the western-Jerusalem reservoir in Beit Zayit. The 2-billion shekels project is being planned to meet the water needs of Jerusalem, Ramallah and the Jerusalem Corridor for the years 2015-2065.