Excavations in Jerusalem’s City of David, to the south-east of the Old City, continue to uncover some remarkable finds1. A burst sewage pipe in 2004 led to the discovery of a stairway forming part of the ascent to the Temple used by pilgrims in the time of Christ. When construction workers were sent to fix the leak, a team of archaeologists were there to monitor the excavation.

During the repairs, some long, wide stairs were uncovered, not far from the Pool of Siloam where Jewish pilgrims would ceremonially wash before beginning the ascent to the Temple. These steps are very similar to the ones that lead to the Hulda Gates (also known as the Double Gate and the Triple Gate) in the Temple Mount’s southern wall. The entrances to these gates are now blocked.

Archaeologists believe that pilgrims walked up these stairs to the south side of the Temple. The lower southern section of the stairway is an astounding 30 metres wide, which then narrows to eight metres at the top.2 About 350 metres of the 600 metre long road have been excavated and are now open to the public.3

Millions of Jews would have followed this path as they brought their offerings to the Temple. Because of this association it has been called the “Pilgrimage Road”. According to the historian, Josephus, over two million people came to Jerusalem during the various Jewish holidays and offered thousands of sacrifices.4 Three times a year, Israel was commanded to appear before Yahweh during the Passover, Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles (Deut 16:16).

The stepped road commences at the Pool of Siloam and reaches to Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall. Remains of the piers supporting the stairway that provided entry to the Temple via Robinson’s Arch are visible today.5

Archaeologists believe that shops would have extended along the length of the road, and work is continuing on their excavation. Here merchants would have exchanged money and sold offerings for the pilgrims visiting the Temple. It also seems certain that this is the road that Jesus and his disciples, as well as famous rabbis and Jewish leaders of the time, would have trod as they made their way up to the Temple.

Also discovered during the excavation were thousands of coins from the period of the revolt against the Romans in AD66–70. The coins are inscribed with phrases like, “For the freedom of Zion”, which illustrates the determination of the Jews to resist the might of Rome.

Commenting on why the Jews minted these coins in the face of certain defeat by the Romans, Zeev Orenstein, the Director for International Affairs for the City of David, suggested that the battle against Rome may have seemed hopeless, but the Jews held firm to the belief that one day their descendants would return to Jerusalem and find these coins. Whatever the belief of the Jews at that time, God has fulfilled His promise to regather Israel in the last days ( Jer 30:3).

The Pilgrimage Road is part of a wider project called the Shalem Plan, which is administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority in its role as the national guardian of heritage and cultural sites in Israel. Yisrael Hasson, Director of the Authority, said that the Shalem Plan for the preservation and development of the area of ancient Jerusalem is funded and supported by the Israeli government because it provides visible evidence of past Jewish settlement in the city.

There have been attempts to cast doubt on the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, but the discovery of the Pilgrimage Road confirms the historic link of the Jews with the ancient city. That connection reaches into the future, for when Christ returns and the kingdom of God is set up, all nations will go up to worship at Jerusalem. Then they will recognise the Jews as God’s favoured people, saying, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech 8:23).

References

1  Yaakov Katz, “New discovery in Jerusalem’s City of David: 2,000-year-old pilgrimage road”, Jerusalem Post, 30 June 2019, online at https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Ascending-a-2000-year-old-Pilgrimage-Road-593766

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, “Recently Discovered Pilgrims Road in Jerusalem ‘Brings Truth and Science to a Debate that has Been Marred By myths’”, Breaking Israel News, 1 July 2019, online at https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/132505/recently-discovered-pilgrims-road-in-jerusalem-brings-truth-and-science-to-a-debate-that-has-been-marred-by-myths/

2  https://biblewalks.com/Sites/ShiloahPool.html#HerodianPool

3  BAS Staff, “Road ‘Where Jesus Walked’ is Re-opened to Public” in, Bible History Daily, July 17, 2019, online at

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/temple-at-jerusalem/road-where-jesus-walked-is-re-opened-to-publi c/?mqsc=E4070737&dk=ZE9A7QZ42&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHDDaily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=ZE9A7QZ42

4 Josephus, Wars, 6.9.3.

5 Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer, Secrets of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, updated and enlarged ed. Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 2006, p. 34-35.