Unveiling Jerusalem’s priestly neighborhood from Herodian era

“History is being revived in the Jewish Quarter” as ancient homes of Temple priests reopen after a major renovation.

By Yori Yalon | | Topics: archaeology, Jerusalem
Illustration. Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90
Illustration. Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

After two years of extensive development and renovations costing $5 million, Jerusalem’s ancient Herodian Quarter is reopening to the public this week.

This remarkable archaeological site in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter features an affluent residential neighborhood from the Second Temple period, spanning 2,600 square meters (about 28,000 square feet). It includes luxurious homes, exquisite mosaics, paved streets and numerous ritual baths.

The neighborhood was originally uncovered during excavations led by Professor Nahman Avigad of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. Based on the proximity to the Temple Mount and the abundance of ritual baths and stone vessels found, archaeologists believe this area housed wealthy priestly families who served at the Second Temple complex under Herodian rule.

The strict observance of purity laws characteristic of priestly homes can be inferred from the numerous ritual baths discovered. The large homes, some up to 800 square meters (some 8,600 square feet), adorned with ornate decorations and intricate mosaics, reflect the opulence of its inhabitants.

The Herodian Quarter site was closed to visitors for the past two years to allow for major infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to the visitor experience there. Remaining home structures were meticulously reconstructed, maintaining accurate replicas, while expert artisans restored discovered mosaics.

An innovative lighting and audio system now dynamically illuminates exhibits and fills the ancient neighborhood remains with ambient sounds evoking life in this priestly enclave during Temple times.

Israeli archaeologists uncover Herodian-era remains in Jerusalem. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Immersive multimedia displays vividly “bring the ancient neighborhood to life” through holograms, animations, and videos projected onto the antiquities. From the perspective of two residents, visitors can simulate walking these streets towards the Temple Mount. Suspended glass walkways provide up-close access to homes without compromising the archaeological remains.

“History is being revived in the Jewish Quarter,” proclaimed Herzel Ben Ari, CEO of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter. “This renovated museum offers a window into Jerusalem’s majestic past during the Second Temple era. I invite all to visit and connect with the city’s magnificent heritage.”

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