Israeli archaeologists have discovered a new section of an 2,000-year-old drainage channel that links the ancient City of David to the plaza in front of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.
“It connects the dots between the where Jews lived in the ancient city of Jerusalem, the city of David, and the plaza. For the first time, they connect,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Archaeologist Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and his team first uncovered the sewer in 2007. The walls of the tunnel, made of ashlar stones 3 feet deep, reach a height of 10 feet in some places and are covered by heavy stone slabs that were the road's paving stones.
The channel also served as an escape hatch for Jews desperate to flee the conquering Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. As the temple was being destroyed, people took shelter in the drainage channel and lived inside it until they fled Jerusalem through its southern end, the historian Josephus Flavius wrote in “The War of the Jews.”
Archaeology has been a politically explosive issue in Jerusalem. Palestinians including the late have even questioned a Jewish role in ancient Jerusalem. At the Camp David in 2000, Arafat insisted that there never were Jewish temples on the Temple Mount.
Barkat said no excavations had taken place under Muslim holy places. “There is no tunneling under the Temple Mount. There is not and there will not be,” he said.
The entire tunnel could be opened to the public within a year.