Friday, February 19, 2010

Jerusalem - Western Wall Tunnels

During the ITA Conference, we were taken on a guided tour of Jerusalem at night. The main focus of the trip was the Western Wall tunnels alongside the Western Wall, which was the supporting wall of Temple Mount. We learned that the current Jewish worship site, the most holy place in Judaism, is only a small part of the original wall, and the tunnels underneath the adjacent parts of the Old City follow the wall further.

It is worth taking this tour with a knowledgeable tour guide who can explain the history of the site. At one point, there is a moving model showing the various stages of the Old City around the Temple Mount. This helps visitors see where they are walking, what it looked like at the time of construction, and what was built above the tunnels later.

The wall contains the largest building block in the world, weighing 570 tons. It is unclear how this stone was brought to the site.

The tour reached the place where construction of the Herodian walkway alongside the wall ceased, and the stones that were being quarried for use were still only partly separated from the bedrock. Further on there are rooms that were used as water reservoirs for many centuries.

After emerging from the tunnels, we walked around the Old City, getting a good view of the Western Wall itself, and of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on top.

The tour continued with a walk through the Jewish Quarter, including the Cardo, a street from the Roman period that has been reconstructed, and is now lined with souvenir shops (which were, however, closed late at night...).

It was an interesting tour of a city I don't know very well. This was my first time in the tunnels, and I had never toured the Old City that late at night, when it was largely deserted. This was just a small taste of the history and archaeology to be sampled in Jerusalem.

No comments: