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History & Archeology

Davidson Center in Jerusalem Offers Glimpses at Ancient Israel


An ancient coin from around 40 BCE with the oldest known depiction of a Temple Menorah (courtesy Emil Algam/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Davidson Center in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park reopened to the public this week after being closed for three years for renovations, just in time for the upcoming Passover Holiday. Visitors will get to see several ancient archeological artifacts, dating back to the First Temple Period 2,700 years ago, with some of the oldest known inscriptions bearing Jerusalem’s ancient Hebrew name, “yršlm.”

The center also offers an entire gallery dedicated to the story of the origin of the Temple Menorah. Among the artifacts on display is an extremely rare coin minted by the last Hasmonean king, Antigonus II Mattathias, depicts the Temple Menorah and is the oldest known artistic representation created 107 years before the Second Temple’s destruction.

“This is the oldest known artistic depiction of the menorah, created 107 years before the destruction of the Second Temple,” says Dr. Yuval Baruch, head of archaeology department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who was one of the excavators of the site and led the archaeological curation of the Davidson Center. The other archaeological find on public display for the first time since it was excavated in the 1950’s is a fragment of plasterwork from a Second Temple era burial cave, known as Jason’s Tomb, bearing five carvings of menorahs.

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The Davidson Center renovation project, which included a building expansion and full content refresh, was led by the Israel Antiquities Authority with funding provided by the William Davidson Foundation.

The Jerusalem Archaeological Park is one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel. Due to its archaeological, historical, and cultural importance, hundreds of thousands of people visit the park each year. The Society for the Development of the Jewish Quarter leads the visitor experiences in the Old City, including the area of the Southern Wall, Davidson Center, and Jerusalem Archaeological Park.

Jerusalem Archaeological Park was established in 1995 through the support of Detroit businessman and philanthropist, William “Bill” Davidson (1922-2009), who had an appreciation for archaeology and believed deeply in preserving the history of the Jewish people. Building on his transformational contribution to the park, Mr. Davidson established the Davidson Center, which first opened in 2001, and quickly became one of Jerusalem’s most innovative and technologically advanced tourist attractions.



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