Adventures in archeology in the Old City

From the Umayyad period to the days of the Second Temple, these trails will take you through history.

The Davidson archeological park. (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
The Davidson archeological park.
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
It is not easy to express in words the meaning of Jerusalem for the Jewish people. However, that feeling parallels the deep layers of the Old City of Jerusalem itself. Slowly, surely and in the skillful hands of the excavators, the story of this ancient city is being rediscovered.
For an outstanding visual and tactile experience, you can touch the big stones of history in the Jewish Quarter. You can explore the magnificent stories of the archeological park, the Temple Mount excavations and the Herodian Quarter. All these sites are within walking distance of one another.
You can start with the life of the elite of Jerusalem, such as the wealthy people and the kohanim. At the Wohl Museum of Archeology, there is a six-building compound that faces the Temple Mount. It is situated on a western hill, which today is the location of the Jewish Quarter. The site focuses on three remains of the aristocratic families during the Herodian era.
Through its Hellenistic/Roman-style artifacts, the colorful frescoes on the walls and the many bathing rooms, there is a strong sense of the wealth and high standard of living at that time. The good life was brought to a sudden end with the destruction of the Second Temple in the first century. Fortunately, we can still admire the hints of their reality at the Herodian Quarter Museum.
The Burnt House, or the Katros House, is another historical site. It tells the story of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Here, the past almost comes alive with the help of an audiovisual display that shows the hectic life in the dramatic period before the Romans destroyed the city. Today, the house built atop this site belongs to the descendants of the original family that lived there 2,000 years ago.
The largest excavation in the area is located alongside the southwestern tip of the Western Wall. This vast archeological park is encompassed in the Davidson Center.
Here, there is an excellent multimedia tourist facility. The center expertly uses computerized media to create visual presentations, conjuring up a well-detailed look into the past. The center offers the visitor an opportunity to understand the history beyond the massive thick walls by completing the picture where the excavation findings leave off.
The trails will take you through history from the Umayyad period through layers of changing stone and ground levels to the days of the Second Temple. Those were days of vibrant activity when thousands of pilgrims visited the Temple and the magnificent giant structures that King Herod built for them. In the park, you can truly dive into history and still touch it and walk through it as if you were a Jewish pilgrim 2,000 years ago.
After a day or two of visiting these ancient sites, the picture of the era will be in focus and detail almost like HD.