Beneath the houses of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, the remains of well-to-do families who lived in the Herodian Quarter (also known as the Herodian suburb) have been hidden for years. In this quarter, we can experience the daily lives of the people of Jerusalem in its last days. See side by side both the splendor and the ashes. The neighborhood is built on the western hill (today’s Mount Zion) from which one could see the Temple that was built on the eastern hill (Mount Moriah).
It is considered one of the largest underground archeological sites in the world. A compound of six houses that were preserved at different levels on an area of around 3 dunams (0.7 acres).
The aristocratic quarter of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
The Herodian Quarter was named this because the houses date to King Herod’s reign. Jerusalem is growing and spreading toward the western hill, those new neighborhoods being built, populated by wealthy Jerusalemites, some of whom were apparently from the priestly families. The houses that were revealed after the Six-Day War in the excavations in the Jewish Quarter tell us about the wealth and splendor that the inhabitants of Jerusalem lived in those days. We will enter the cellars, the kitchens and the living rooms of those people. We will see mosaics, mikvahs (ritual baths) and decorations, all of which will remind us of how Jerusalem was before destruction.
The houses were found destroyed under a huge layer of ashes, attesting to the great fire that raged in Jerusalem about a month after the destruction of the Temple.
In the first building on the site, from which only the basement floor remains, there are bathrooms, ritual baths and remains of walls. The multiplicity of mikvahs attests to the importance of purification for the residents of the house at the end of the Second Temple period (who were probably priests).
In the course of the tour we will reach ‘Beit Hamidot’, a large and very luxurious house. Where we can see color decorations on the walls and luxurious mosaic floors, attesting to the great wealth and economic prosperity of this period. The findings in the exhibits provide an additional glimpse into the wealth dimensions: decorated tables, imported extraordinarily colored pottery and more.
A fascinating and unique find, engraved on one of the walls in the Jewish Quarter (the original is in the Israel Museum), is the engraving of the Temple Menorah. Professional opinion is that there is a reasonable chance that the person who engraved the Menorah is a priest who saw the Menorah in the Temple and we have the possibility of receiving a glimpse of the original Menorah. The appearance of the Temple Menorah engraved on the wall is different to that of Knesset (the Israeli parliament) and the Menorah above Titus Gate, mostly different in the way the base of the Menorah looks.
The wealth and splendor that appear in the sources of the Sages and in other historical sources attest to the great social inequality that was a major part of the problems of Jewish society during this period. Inequality that led to civil war and finally, even to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. The houses in the Herodian Quarter were discovered burnt and destroyed by the fierce fire that raged in the area about a month after the destruction of the Temple.