If the center of the world is Jerusalem, then archeology in Israel is her history book and the Davidson Center is one of the best places to experience this history. There couldn't be a more appropriate quote to confirm how ancient archeology in Israel is, than this one from the Midrash Tanhuma:
The land of Israel sits at the center of the world; Jerusalem is in the center of the land of Israel; the sanctuary is in the center of Jerusalem; the temple building is in the center of the sanctuary; the ark is in the center of the temple building; and the foundation stone out of which the world was founded is before the temple building" (Midrash Tanhuma 7:10 - a collection of Torah studies compiled over millennia by various Rabbis and named for one of it's contributors, Rabbi Tanhuma).
Entering into the Davidson Center Archeological Park, named for Ethan and Marla Davidson, we first descend from the modern street level into the beginning of time itself. An open courtyard with only huge stones for resting, we paused for a few moments while tickets were purchased. Shortly we were led into one of the most fascinating archeological sites in Israel I've ever seen.
The Davidson Exhibition and Virtual Reconstruction Center is built within the footprint of an Umayyad-era palace, carefully arranged on three levels so as not to disturb the original walls. There is so much to see so take your time descending the ramps through all levels.
Archeology in Israel is not just about wonderful finds under the earth, it's also a record of ancient, and in some cases, rediscovered languages. This display in the Entrance Galley depicts ancient names of Jerusalem dating back to the Egyptian era, around the 20th - 19th BCE.
The Exhibition Galley contains displays of archeological treasures dating from the four main eras of Jerusalem's history, the Second Temple Period, the Roman Period, the Byzantine Period and the Early Islamic Period. Artifacts of stoneware, pottery and glass formed into oil lamps, vases, water vessels, plates, bowls and cups, have been unearthed, some highly decorated and some simple and plain.
Within the Theatre Gallery, a high resolution movie depicts the pilgrimage days when the Herodian era Temple stood on the Temple Mount.
The Arched Gallery is an inter-active display in which visitors can explore the virtual reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount. Using ultra modern hi-tech equipment, this scientifically accurate, computer generated display employs the use of the hi-tech Silicon Graphics Onyx2 InfiniteReality3 super computer with high resolution projection system. Try saying that three times real fast!
Taking the stairs or the elevator back up to the main level will access the restrooms, a cafeteria and souvenir shop.
Exiting this area you will enter the Jerusalem Archeological Park. This is an incredible and very important archeological site in Israel. Wrapping the south west corner of the Temple Mount, it encompasses about 5000 years of history, including the time of King Herod and the construction of the Second Temple.
Original stones, part of the Temple Mount, toppled by the Romans during their capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD, still lie where they fell 2000 years ago. Notice the protruding stones where Robinson's Arch once stood. Walk along original stone streets and ascend the ancient steps to the Hulda Gates. Take time, read the signs, and really get a feel of what it might have been like to walk along the street or shop in the markets.
Plan to spend about 60 minutes touring the Davidson Exhibition Center and at least an hour or more exploring the Archeological Park.
Location: Temple Mount Excavations, to the right just inside the Dung Gate, off of Ma'ale HaShalom St., and just south of the Western Wall Plaza.
Phone: 02-6277550 or 02-6277962.
Sunday - Thursday 8-5
Closed on Saturdays and Jewish Holidays
Adults - 30 nis
Groups of 25 Adults - 21 nis
Children/Soldiers/Seniors/Students - 16 nis
Guided tours booked in advance - 160 nis