An enormous quarry from the time of the Second Temple (first century CE) was exposed in recent weeks in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out prior to the paving of Highway 21 by the Moriah Company.
A 2,000-year-old key, pick axes, severance wedges etc are also among the artifacts uncovered during the course of the excavation.
According to Irina Zilberbod, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The quarrying phenomenon created a spectacular sight of bedrock columns and steps and craters of sorts that were the result of the rock-cuttings.
“What remained are rock masses in various stages of quarrying, and there were those that were found in a preliminary stage of rock-cutting prior to detachment. Some of the stones that were quarried are more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) long. The giant stones were probably hewn for the sake of the construction of the city’s magnificent public buildings.”
Zilberbod explains that “the pick axes were used to cut the severance channels around the stone block in the bedrock surface and the arrowhead-shaped detachment wedge, which is solid iron, was designed to detach the base of the stone from the bedrock by means of striking it with a hammer.
“The key that was found, and which was probably used to open a door some 2,000 years ago, is curved and has teeth. What was it doing there? We can only surmise that it might have fallen from the pocket of one of the quarrymen.”
The enormous quarries that were exposed – totaling 1,000 square meters (10,760 square feet) in area – join other quarries that were previously documented and studied by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Research has shown that the northern neighborhoods of modern Jerusalem are situated on Jerusalem’s “city of quarries” from the Second Temple period.
The question arises why did the quarrymen select this specific region. Researchers speculate that the answer to this lies in the Meleke rock formation found there, which is a type of rock that is easily quarried and hardens immediately after it is hewn.
In addition to this, since the northern area is topographically higher than the city of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period, it was presumably easy to transport the huge stones, some which weighed tens if not hundreds of tons, down hill along the slope to the construction sites. An ancient road dating to the Second Temple period was exposed next to the quarry and it was probably used to move the large stones.
Another puzzle regarding the transportation of such large stones is how were they actually moved. Presumably this was accomplished by means of oxen and wooden rollers, but the contemporary historical sources also mention giant wooden lifting devices.
“Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts,” Obama said Tuesday in declaring May as Jewish American Heritage Month. “Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women’s rights to workers’ rights to the end of segregation.”
Among other Jewish American contributions, Obama listed “scientists and teachers, public servants and private citizens, wise leaders and loving parents.”
He said Americans could see Jewish “accomplishments in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge.”
Congress legislated Jewish American Heritage Month in 2006 and Obama was the first president, in 2010, to mark it with a celebration.
This year there will be no White House fete because of budget cuts.
A rare ritual bath (mikveh) that dates to the late Second Temple period has been exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the Kiryat Menachem quarter of Jerusalem, prior to building the Ora–Massua road promoted by the Moriah Company.
According to Benyamin Storchan, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Numerous ritual baths have been excavated in Jerusalem in recent years, but the water supply system that we exposed in this excavation is unique and unusual.
“The ritual bath consists of an underground chamber entered by way of steps. The mikveh received the rainwater from three collecting basins (“otzar”) that were hewn on the roof of the bath, and the pure water was conveyed inside the chamber through channels.
“The ritual baths known until now usually consist of a closed cavity that was supplied with rainwater conveyed from a small rock-cut pool located nearby. The complex that was exposed at this time is a more sophisticated and intricate system.
“The bath was apparently associated with a settlement that was situated there in the Second Temple period. Presumably, due to the rainfall regime and arid conditions of the region, the inhabitants sought special techniques that would make it possible to store every drop of water.
“It is interesting to note that the bath conforms to all of the laws of kashrut, like collecting the water in it naturally without human contact, and ensuring that the water does not seep into the earth which is why the bath was treated with a special kind of plaster.”
The ritual bath, which is located in a picturesque valley where there are ancient agricultural installations, was uncovered a short distance from the houses in the Kiryat Menachem quarter.
According to Jerusalem District Archaeologist Amit Re’em, “The neighborhood community has expressed great interest in the conservation of the mikveh. The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Moriah Company are working to make this delightful treasure a site for the benefit of the residents and visitors.”
After the ritual bath went out of use, the place served as a quarry and the channels filled up with earth. During the 20th century, the immersion chamber was cleaned, a round opening was breached in its ceiling and it was used as a cistern.
Over the last 24 hours, millions of Israelis celebrated Israel’s 65th Independence Day. Despite bad weather, thousands arrived at Israel’s national parks, heritage sites, nature reserves and forests.
After last prayers were said for Israel’s fallen as part of Memorial Day, the flag on Mount Herzl was raised once again to full mast and the traditional torch lighting ceremony signifying the beginning of the festivities ensued. This year the ceremony was held under the theme of national heritage.
With the beginning of Independence Day, Israel’s streets were swept with swarms of people who watched fireworks and musical performances, spraying the streets with endless amounts of foam and hitting each other on the head with inflatable hammers.
There were even those abroad who celebrated the State’s birth. In Australia, the Americas, Europe and Africa, many waved the Star of David and sang Israeli hits.
Modi Ephraim, Israel’s ambassador to Peru, reported that “the events here will come to a conclusion without fireworks but there will be celebrations.”
In Boston, however, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the local Jewish community and the Israeli consulate in Boston have decided to hold the scheduled events marking Israel’s independence day, but without the celebratory markers customary in such events, in a show of respect and solidarity with the city’s residents.