Temple quarry becomes site for new elementary school

Tourism officials "not consulted" about viability of turning part of archeological discovery into tourist site.

second temple quarry 224 (photo credit: )
second temple quarry 224
(photo credit: )
A Jerusalem elementary school for girls is being constructed on the site of an ancient quarry that supplied enormous high quality limestones for the construction of the Temple Mount, calling into question whether part of the area will ever be converted into a major tourist site, officials said Wednesday. The site, uncovered last year during a salvage excavation four kilometers northwest of the Old City of Jerusalem in the outlying Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, was used during the construction of the Second Temple, the Israel Antiquities Authority said. According to an agreement worked out by the state-run archaeological body and the Jerusalem Municipality, about half of the five-dunam site, on its northeastern side, will remain an archeological site, while the other half will be used for the school, said Jerusalem regional archeologist Jon Seligman. But in the four months months since the quarry's discovery was made public, bulldozers have been preparing the ground for the construction of the school while no initiative has been taken to convert the rest of the area into a tourist site. Seligman said that no "concrete" decision has been taken whether to turn the defined archeological area to a tourist site or to set up a back-covering to protect it, adding that the issue needed to be worked out between the Antiquities Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality. He opined that the site, a 10-minute drive from the Old City and in the heart of a haredi residential neighborhood, was in the "wrong place" for the city's tourism industry. Both the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality's Tourism Authority said Wednesday that they had not been consulted about turning the section of the Temple quarry into a tourist site. "This project has not been brought to our attention," Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Shira Kazeh. "We have not been consulted on the issue, and it is unclear whether the archeological site is important enough," said head of the city's tourism division Ekey Bar-Yossef. The site was uncovered by chance during a routine "salvage excavation" carried out by the Antiquities Authority last year following municipal plans to build an elementary school in the area. Archeologists had previously assumed that the quarry used to construct the Temple Mount was located within the Old City, but the enormous size of the stones found at the site - up to eight meters long - as well as coins and pottery fragments dating back to the first century CE indicated that this was the site used 2,000 years ago in the construction of the walls of the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall. The site, which was used for no more than 20 years, was abandoned after the Second Temple period, and is now surrounded by olive trees planted by Arab villagers. The part of the quarry that has been unearthed is likely only 30 to 40 percent of its total size, but archeologists have no plans to excavate the rest of the area because it is private property.