Archaeologists Uncovered a Buried Part of the Western Wall to Find an Ancient Roman Theater

Oct. 17 2017

Excavating a portion of the Western Wall that has been sunken into the earth for nearly 1,700 years, Israeli researchers have found a theater-like structure they believe to have been built by the Romans around 130 CE. Their findings shed light on a period in Jerusalem’s history—after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE—about which little is known. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

The small 200- to 300-seat theater, whose existence was noted by [the historian] Flavius Josephus and other ancient sources but which has eluded Jerusalem excavations for some 150 years, is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem, archaeologists said.

In 70 CE, the Second Temple was razed along with most of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem. In its place, the Roman colony Aelia Capitolina was established and named after the Roman god Jupiter and the emperor Hadrian (also known as Aelius), who began reconstructing the city in 130 CE. Following the bloody Bar Kokhba revolt of circa 132–136 CE, Jews were banned from the capital aside from on Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the Temple. . . .

The team expects to continue excavations until next spring. Joe Uziel, [one of the archaeologists leading the team], said while he cannot know [for certain], he expects to reach First Temple-period remains. . . .

[I]t appears that the theater was not fully finished. The stairs are not fully hewn and there are rocks that have guide marks but weren’t fully carved. [Uziel] speculated that perhaps the Bar Kokhba revolt interrupted its construction. . . . The theater and other finds from previous excavations give “a hint” into the importance of the Temple Mount following the fall of the Second Temple, said [another archaeologist].

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More about: Ancient Rome, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Western Wall


How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America