Visitors to a unique museum in Jerusalem’s Old City displaying rare mosaics, frescoes, ritual baths and structures dating to the time of the Second Temple, find themselves stepping over buckets of water, as they make their way from one archaeological treasure to the next.
The buckets have been placed throughout the Herodian Mansions-Wohl Archaeological Museum in the Jewish Quarter in an attempt to minimize rainwater and sewage from dripping onto the ancient displays.
The underground museum, which houses the remains of three upper-class homes from the Herodian period is located on a slope overlooking the Temple Mount. It was discovered by Professor Nahman Avigad after the Six-Day War during reconstruction of the Jewish Quarter, and was opened to the public after structures and sidewalks were built on top of it.
The Jewish Quarter Development Company, which owns and operates the museum, says the water dripping onto the antiquities is due to poor sealing between paving stones of the streets above the site. The Jerusalem Municipality, which is responsible for infrastructure in public areas, says there is no proof of that contention, and that sewaged pipes are the source of the leak.
Last Tuesday water had to be pumped out of a ritual bath, one of the remains of the 600-square-meter mansion on a lower level of the museum, which was damaged. Original mosaic stones of the "burned mosaic" have been dislodged by the water and stucco in an ancient reception hall of the home was damaged.
"The damp creeps up the walls from the soaked floor and causes the frescoes to disintegrate," said Hillel Geva, the Jewish Quarter Development Company archaeologist. "The damage is cumulative and irreversible. How does Jerusalem allow itself to so disregard its ancient culture?" he said.
Would this have happened when Teddy Kollek was mayor? I doubt it.