Archeologists uncovered rare remains of ritual objects and a 3,000-year-old
temple while conducting excavations ahead of the renovation of the Tel
Aviv-Jerusalem highway, the Antiquities Authority announced on
A major expansion of the highway, in the section from Sha’ar
Hagai to Jerusalem, has revealed many important archeological finds at Tel
Motza, west of the capital, including Neolithic Era ruins and an enormous
underground water reservoir from the Crusader Period at the Motza
A First Temple-period discovery announced on Wednesday was a
large structure with massive walls and an east-facing entrance, believed to be a
The entrance is aligned with the sun’s rays to illuminate the
ritual object placed within the temple, “symbolizing the divine presence
within,” according to archeologist Anna Eirikh. Eirikh, Dr. Hamoudi
Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz are directing the excavation for the Antiquities
Inside the building, archeologists discovered a square
structure, most likely an altar, and a cache of sacred vessels nearby. The
ritual objects include decorated pedestals, pottery vessels, fragments of
chalices, and clay figures of humans and domesticated animals, all of which they believe were
used for religious or spiritual ceremonies.
“The finds recently
discovered at Tel Motza provide rare archeological evidence for the existence of
temples and ritual enclosures in the Kingdom of Judah in general... prior to the
religious reforms throughout the kingdom,” Eirikh said.
Around the time
of Hezekiah and Isaiah, Judaism abolished many ritual sites in order to
concentrate ritual practices solely at the Temple in Jerusalem, she
Archeologists began excavating Motza in the 1990s in
preparation for the expansion of Highway 1. They believe the ancient ruins
belong to “Mozah,” which is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as a town in the
tribal lands of Benjamin bordering on Judea (Joshua 18:26).
discoveries in the area include a system of large silos, leading experts to
believe Jerusalem’s grain supplies were stored there.
A central dilemma
of archeologists and the Antiquities Authority is striking the right balance
between preserving history and allowing development for a growing population.
Many times, however, construction is the cause of archeological
To secure construction permits from the Interior Ministry,
public works projects need approval from the Antiquities
Pre-construction surveys, especially for the expansion of
Highway 1, have yielded a plethora of discoveries.
The Highway 1
expansion will eventually be built over the temple discovered at Motza and the
ruins will not be accessible to the public. The site will be sealed and
protected, and then the highway will be built over the site in a way that does
not harm the ruins. The ritual objects will be transferred to museums.