Have the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality buried treasures from the Second Temple under a giant lavatory? That possibility is just one of the problems cited by opponents of a plan to improve a spring in the city’s Ein Karem neighborhood, at one of Israel’s most important Christian tourism sites.
The spring is the fourth most important site in the Holy Land to Christian pilgrims, after Jerusalem’s Old City, Bethlehem and Nazareth, and about one million people visit it each year. According to Christian tradition, this is the place where Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, met when both women were pregnant. But for the last two years, these visitors have been greeted by the adjacent sight of a huge, sealed building that, according to the approved plan, is supposed to serve as a public lavatory and a municipal warehouse for gardening tools.
But perhaps worst of all was the handling of the site’s archaeological relics. A salvage dig conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered ancient water systems that carried water from the spring to terraces on the wadi. This led the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Naomi Tsur, to call a meeting in November 2009 to discuss how these relics could be preserved. The meeting, attended by Tourism Ministry and Antiquities Authority representatives, decided to freeze construction of the building and look into building an archaeological park there instead.
But on the very day the meeting was held, the tourist corporation’s vice president, David Mingelgreen, sent the municipality a letter saying that, for reasons unknown, all the archaeological findings had been buried under tons of earth the day before. Thus, by the time the meeting occurred, there was nothing left to salvage.
From his letter, Mingelgreen appeared to view the findings as a nuisance. “The goal is to refrain as far as possible from work that will require archaeological digs,” he wrote.
There is more here.
HT: Joseph Lauer