Is an Ancient Jerusalem hall about to become the latest Old City restaurant?

When trying to expand the 12 meter shop in 1991, Imad Abu Khadijeh stumbled upon an ancient hall hidden behind one of the walls.

By REUTERS
November 20, 2016 18:48
2 minute read.

Ancient Jerusalem hall to become latest Old City restaurant?

Ancient Jerusalem hall to become latest Old City restaurant?

Behind the Damascus Gate that leads into the Old City of Jerusalem, a shopkeeper is trying to turn his discovery of an ancient hall into a modern day restaurant.

Imad Abu Khadijeh's small food shop has been in his family since 1945.

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When trying to expand the 12 meter shop in 1991, he stumbled upon an ancient hall hidden behind one of the walls.

He now wants to turn the historical location into a restaurant.

"I want to show the beauty of the stones here, because the beauty of the stones here tells about the era of Salah Al-Din Al Ayoubi, the Mamluk era and the Byzantine era. My hope is to turn it into an Islamic restaurant for Arabic food, specifically Palestinian food, so that every person would come to see the beauty of the stones, the beauty of the location and how delicious the Palestinian food that would be served here," he said.

He had been working alone to clear soil out of the hall since 1991, until it came to the attention of the Israeli Antiquities Authorities, who first stopped him digging and then regulated the excavation.

"Now I cannot work, or move a single thing without the presence of the Antiquities authorities, who I pay them every day 960 Shekels (250 dollars), and some days they take 1050 Shekels (275 dollars)," added abu Khadijeh.

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), that funds dozens of projects in Jerusalem, is taking care of the expenses that Abu Khadijeh must pay to the Israeli authorities to have them supervise his excavation.

According to the director of the Department of Tourism and Archaeology at Al-Quds University, Yusuf Said Natsheh, the hall dates back hundreds of years, possibly as far as the 12th century or even earlier.

"In all probability the upper part of the hall goes back to the Mamluk era. However, the foundations could be from an earlier era, from the Ayyubid era or Frankish era. When it comes to its use, we cannot decide on what it was used for until the work is done, but it has several uses," he said.

The hall may have had numerous uses over the years but the future use seems set - Abu Khadijeh says he hopes the hall will be converted to the restaurant he has dreamed of within the next three months.


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