Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Jerusalem Home Harbors Buried Second Temple Artifacts

June 27, 2013 1:24 am 0 comments

Bronze key ring from Second Temple period. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency

Miriam Siebenberg lives in a very unusual house – unusual because of the fact that her home was built on top of another home, one that existed over 2,000 years ago. Within the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Miriam and her husband Theo purchased a house after the Six Day War, eventually discovering that it contained a treasure trove of history buried deep underground.

Archeological excavations at the Siebenberg House. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

In the Siebenberg’s house, a collection of archaeological artifacts discovered after years of digging in the basement, appear on display. Arrowheads, ink-wells, coins, ancient pottery, a glass cup and pieces of jewelry including a bronze key ring, likely used in the Second Temple era by a woman to unlock her jewelry box, can all be seen in the display.

The Siebenberg House museum in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency

But even more intriguing is what lies beneath their home. One can see the remains of an ancient Jewish residence and a way of life that dates back to the days of King Solomon and the Second Temple period.

“The further we dug, the more history we uncovered,” Seibenberg told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Siebenberg credits her husband Theo with the drive to initiate the not-so-simple years of digging under their modern four-story house that eventually led to the archaeologicaldiscoveries

“When we moved into our finished home in 1970, Theo had a feeling that there was much more to this place,” said Siebenberg.

At that time, archaeological discoveries by Hebrew University archaeologists in the Jewish Quarter including the area around the Siebenberg’s home were making headlines. The Siebenbergs believed that perhaps there were artifacts buried under their home as well so Theo applied to the Department of Antiquities for a permit to excavate beneath their house.

“We invested our own money, brought in engineers, architects, archaeologists expert diggers, and donkeys to remove the rubble, digging up to 60 feet down to discover all this,” Siebenberg explains.

Siebenbergs display artifacts spanning two thousand years of Jerusalem's history. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency

During more than 18 years of unearthing, the Siebenbergs discovered a ritual bath, known as a mikveh used by Jews during the Second Temple era, an aqueduct, a Byzantine water cistern, and even empty burial chambers believed to have been used by Jewish royalty in the 10th century B.C. during King Solomon’s reign.

Eventually, the remnants of the base wall of what is believed to be a Jewish home that stood 2,000 years ago, were also uncovered as were ancient Hasmonean stones, including one with a menorah engraving. Evidence of the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. was also discovered -a line of ash sealed into sedimentary rock was sent to a special lab in South Africa for testing, which found that the ashes were indeed from that time.

In the 1980s, the story behind the Siebenberg’s basement, which Theo had transformed into a museum for the public in 1985, received much international attention. National Geographic, the New York Times, BBC, ABC, NBC, and many other international media sources devoted coverage to the history being uncovered under the Siebenberg House.

“We had groups from all around the world visiting our archaeological museum including European parliamentarians, US Congressmen, foreign press and other leading figures,” Siebenberg told Tazpit News Agency.

In addition to the fascinating story of the Siebenberg House, the couple behind the digging has their own unique tale. Theo, named after Theodore Herzl, came from a wealthy diamond family in Antwerp that barely escaped Belgium following the Nazi takeover. While not religious, Theo grew up in a traditional Jewish family with a strong love for Israel. Siebenberg eventually emigrated to the Jewish state in 1966 after a series of successful international investments and married Miriam, who was born and raised in Tel Aviv.

“Theo always felt homeless, having been uprooted from his Antwerp home at the age of 16 by the Nazis,” says Miriam. “But he always knew he wanted to live in Jerusalem and as close as possible to where the Temple once stood – the most important place in Jewish history. This was the only place he considered home in his lifetime.”

Today, Miriam, continues to carry the legacy of the Siebenberg House. This past June, Miriam, with the help of her assistant, 27-year-old Adi Rabinowitz-Bedein, reopened the museum to the general public, providing tours of the home’s unique history while showcasing the archaeological finds. “This is our life’s work,”comments Miriam.

“My friends in Tel Aviv don’t understand why we live in Jerusalem,” says Miriam who describes herself as secular. “But I know my roots are here – both my roots and the roots of our people are right underneath this house.”

“I live the ancient past of the Jewish nation,” says Miriam. “And I want to share this history and experience with as many people as possible.”

To visit the Siebenberg House museum, call to make a reservation for a guided tour: 02-628-2341 or 0547267754. The museum is also available for cultural events and special occasions

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →