Paul Calvert spoke with Dudi Mevorach from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, about the history of the model of Jerusalem in the late Second Temple period, and how it's changed over the years in response to archaeological excavations.

Dudi Mevorach
Dudi Mevorach

Paul: You are going to walk us through the Israel Museum. We are here at the model of the Temple, tell us about this.

Dudi: We are next to the model of Jerusalem in the late Second Temple period, which is 66CE. That was the beginning of the great Jewish revolt against the Romans.

It's a huge vast model. It's built over more than a thousand square metres. It was built in the early sixties by a private hotel manager, in a different site in Jerusalem, before Israelis could cross to the eastern side of Jerusalem.

His initiative was to build a model that would allow Israelis to see those places and understand this crucial moment. What we see here is actually Jerusalem as it looked at its peak moment. The end of the Herodian period with all the monumental buildings at the centre of which is the Temple Mount and the Temple itself.

The choice was to choose the best professor of History and Archaeology, Professor Michael Avi-Yonah, and charge him with this huge task of imagining Jerusalem in three dimensions 2000 years ago.

It's never easy to reconstruct historical or archaeological buildings. If you do so in an article or presentation you can speculate and offer a few options, but if you build a model in three dimensions, then you have to decide and take decisions.

The sources that he worked with to get his data were first of all the archaeological excavations, but in the sixties they were not that large. There are remains that are still seen like the walls of the Temple Mount and other things. Then there are the historical sources, Flavius Josephus to begin with, the Mishnah, and other Roman sources that describe Jerusalem and parallel sites from Roman and late Hellenistic sites around the world. He took all these together and step by step reconstructed Jerusalem in a genius way.

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Now almost 60 years later we know that he has done a phenomenal work and most of his speculations proved to be right with future excavations.

Some of them are different from his assumptions and he always said that the most important thing that you need when you build a model of historic nature, the most important tool, is the hammer to knock off the mistakes that you have done. Indeed we have done some changes to the model since it was built.

Originally it was built on a hill top in Jerusalem not far from the museum where you can see it. It's called the Holy Land Hotel. The man who initiated it was Hans Kroch.

Then in 2006 there was a decision to do a huge development project where the hotel stood and the question was "Where would the model be moved to?"

I don't know if it's divine intervention or any other thing, but we had an open field just west of the Shrine of the Book that holds the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is from the same period in the museum grounds. Luckily for us the decision was to move it to here.

The model is built from Jerusalem stone. That was another decision taken by the builders. It is built from more than a million cubes of Jerusalem stone. So how do you move a 1000 square metre stone model?

Paul: That was one of my questions. How do you move this? It's amazing!