Glimpses of Israel - The Herodian Quarter

by Joseph Hunting

Nothing remains of the glory that was Jerusalem before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. Likewise nothing remained of the glory of Jerusalem after the Romans destroyed the Holy City in 70 A.D. So thorough was their effort to obliterate all trace of Jerusalem that when they rebuilt the city about a century later the Romans called it Aelia Capitolina.

Mainly due to the efforts of Professor Avi Yonah a magnificent model of Jerusalem circa 70 A.D. was constructed on about a quarter acre site in the grounds of the Holyland Hotel in West Jerusalem. I have never tired of wandering round this spectacular model identifying and locating places of Biblical and historic interest.

Shortly after the June war of 1967 when Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian control I wandered among the ruins and rubble left by the Jordanians where the Jewish Quarter once existed. On subsequent visits my heart rejoiced as a beautiful new Jewish sector rose from the ruins. Archaeologists restored the Cardo, a Roman thoroughfare that ran through Jerusalem. A section of the ancient wall of Jerusalem that existed when Rabshakeh taunted King Hezekiah a century before Nebuchadnezzar's armies destroyed the city has also been excavated.

But it was not until my last visit that I was to witness what actually took place during the final hours of Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D. Beneath the restored Jewish Quarter archaeologists had restored the charred home of a priest, and it was appropriately called "The Burnt House". Nearby, also underground, were a number of restored villas that evidently belonged to wealthy Herodians. One spacious dwelling was of a split-level design complete with mosaic floors and evidence of picturesque murals that adorned the walls. In the eerie stillness nineteen centuries seemed as but yesterday. The pile of ashes was a grim reminder of the tragedy that befell the occupants.