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The Southern Wall Archaeological Park

Southern Wall Archaeological Park The Southern Wall Archaeological Park (known also as “Jerusalem Archaeological park”) is the biggest archaeological park in Jerusalem.  It’s the result of several large scale excavation projects following the Six- Day War. This site presents the finds made in the digs front of the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. The park is also a popular place for various public events.

History of Research of the Southern Wall Archaeological Park

Following the Six-Day War in 1967, the city of Jerusalem was unified. Among the many changes and developments, large scale excavations were launched around the Temple Mount, and especiallly along its Southern Wall. The excavations yielded a wealth of finds from different historical periods. Eventually the site developed into a big archaeological park, used also for public events.

Touring the Southern Wall Archaeological Park

The entry to the park is next to the Dung gate. The site presents a wide range of finds, from different period. The most remarkable discoveries are from the first century and early Muslim period (7th-8th Centuries CE). The most moving finds from a Jewish perspective are those related to the Jewish pilgrmage to the Temple some 2000 years. It inlcudes wide cobbled streets and shops. These shops were probably for the purchase of animal sacrifices. Dozens of ritual baths were also discoevered in the park. They were designed to ensure the purity of the pilgrims before entering the Temple Mount. Finally, wide stairways led the pilgrims into the Temple Mount itself through monumental gates. These gates however were blocked in the middle ages and are closed to this day. In front of one of the wide stairways a massive stone structure may have been the office of the Lower Sanhedrin.

The Sanhedrin was the name of the Jewish Court in the Second Temple Period. According to ancient Jewish sources the “Sanhedrin” had a lower court, with 23 members, and a higher court, having 71 members. The head of the higher court was a “Nassi“, which sometimes was the high priest, and at times was also the king. The higher court could only assemble in the “Hall of hewn stones” which was in the temple and could not convene on holidays and Shabbath. Contemporary historian Josephus Flavius adds it was in the “Xistos“. Location of both sites is not clear to this day, but they must have been near the temple and the Temple mount.

In the excavations in front of the gates into the Temple Mount, a massive stone structure was uncovered. Nearby, the archaeologists also found a fragment of an official inscription engraved on stone which included the word “[El]ders”. The archaeologists suggested the inscription was perhaps referring to the Sanhedrin and perhaps it convened in the central building found next to the main southern entrance. Even of true, the building is rather small and could fit only the “lower Sanherdin” consisting of 23 members.

The site is also a remarkable experience for Christians. Jesus probably walked and preached in this public area leading into the Temple Mount. Its possibly also where he turned the tables of the money changers and the dove sellers.

Site of the Second Temptation of Jesus

The New Testament records that after his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days. He also resisted three temptation, imposed by Satan himself. First, Satan urged him to turn a stone into bread, to which Jesus replied by quoting from the Old Testament: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).

Then Satan took him to “the pinnacle of the temple” (literally, “the wing of the holy”) in Jerusalem, where he challenged him to jump, arguing that if he was indeed the Son of God, Biblical prophecy would be fulfilled and angels would come to his aid (Ps. 91:12). Again, Jesus quoted the Old Testament: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt 4:7).

southern wall corner second temptation of jesusOnly one of the sites mentioned in this story can be identified with any certainty. The “wing of the holy” (Greek: pterugion tou hierou), located in Jerusalem according to Luke, is un doubtfully the edge of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Indeed, in its the southern corners, the foundation walls were so high that, according to the historian Josephus, anybody who looked down “would become dizzy and his vision would be unable to reach the end of the measureless depth.” Furthermore, a recent Muslim tradition holds that a niche-shaped stone in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount was a basin in which the infant Jesus was washed. The origin of the tradition is unknown, but perhaps it developed out of an older Christian tradition that in the same southeastern corner Satan tempted Jesus.

Davidson Center

In 2002 an innovative visitors center was added to the Park. Named after its benefactor, the Davidson Center presents selected finds from the site with accompanying videos.

Bar-Mitzvah at the Southern Wall Archaeological Park

The park has three areas where a Bar-Mitzvah Ceremony can take place. The first is “Azrat Israel“, facing the Western Wal. The second is the first century street in front of the Western wall, beneath Robinson arch. For a big Bar-Mitzvah production it is also possible to set an event in the roofed area facing the Southern Wall.

All of these locations have the advantage of not being bound to Orthodox regulations and restrictions, unlike at the Western Wall Plaza.

For a full appreciation of the Southern Wall archaeological Park and Davidson Center, it is recommended to have a guided day tour of Jerusalem, that will include a visit to these sites.

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