Along with its other attractions, Ramat Rachel boasts a fantastic archaeological site that is open to visitors all day, every day. Developed by the Jewish National Fund, the Tourism Ministry and Ramat Rachel itself, it is the only one of its kind in the country in which a private enterprise like a kibbutz invested both time and money, yet refuses to take an entrance fee.And read on for the remains from the Second Temple and Byzantine periods.
Called the Ramat Rachel Archaeological Gardens, the site was discovered in 1954 when the kibbutz decided to build a water tower on top of an overgrown hill. Because ancient shards and a Jewish burial cave were found nearby in the early 1930s, the Israel Antiquities Authority sponsored a salvage operation at the site. It was during these excavations that archaeologist Yochanan Aharoni unearthed artifacts dating back to the time of the Judean kings.
Over the next eight years more excavations were carried out, with findings that appeared to indicate that a royal citadel had been located on the hill way back in the 8th century BCE. Aharoni concluded that it had belonged to a Judean king – perhaps Johaikim; others believed that King Hezekiah’s palace had stood at the site. And for the next half century everyone assumed that they were viewing Judean remains.
Excavations were renewed in 2004, but with astounding results: the palace was found to be much larger than was originally thought, and had been variously inhabited by the Assyrians, Persians and Babylonians. Incredibly, despite the fact that there isn’t a major water source anywhere in the area, the site features a large collection of bathing pools and cisterns.
The other archaeological garden that was recently in the news is the new one at the IDF Kirya base in Tel Aviv. Past posts on the archaeology of Ramat Rachel are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.