Jerusalem Ophel

The location of the Jerusalem Ophel, meaning fortified hill or risen area, of the Hebrew Bible is easy to make out from the references from 2 Chronicles 27:3; 33:14 and Nehemiah 3:26, 27: it was on the eastern ridge, which descends south of the Temple, and probably near the middle of it.

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The stairs are to the left and the Jewish cemetary is to the right in the background. This area may also be the location of Acra, the fortified compound built by Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes following his sack of the city in 168 CE. In current terms, the still extant Herodian cased-in Temple Mount is bordered to the south by a saddle, followed by the ridge in case, also known as the southeastern hill, which stretches down to the King's Garden and the (lower) Siloam Pool.

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Today the Ophel is part of the Eastern Hill that sits between the City of David and the Temple Mount. The southern side of the temple mount was built and fortified from the Iron/Israelite period. The site was referred in the Bible as the "Ophel" (the high place) - meaning the upper city (acropolis) of ancient Jerusalem. Parts of the Biblical walls and rooms were found in the archaeological excavations at the site.

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Josephus, writing about the First Jewish–Roman War (66–70 CE), uses the Graecised form "Ophlas", and places it slightly higher up the eastern ridge from the First Temple-period Ophel, touching the "eastern cloister of the temple" (Jewish Wars, V, iv, 2) and in the context of "the temple and the parts thereto adjoining, .... and the .... 'Valley of the Cedron'" (Jewish Wars, V, iv, 1). This takes us to the area of the saddle right next to the southeast corner of Herod's Temple Mount.

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This large mikveh was probably used by priests for ritual bath during the Second Temple period. The design of mikveh is unusual in size i.e. 10x10 meters and is above ground. In contrast to the other mikvat in the Ophel area, the Large Mikvah is fully built and plastered structure. The mikvah has two circumferential flights of stairs, and was constructed at the center of the Ophel area on top of massive Iron Age architectural remains.

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The Huldah Gates, are the two sets of now-blocked gates in the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. The western set is a double arched, and the eastern is a triple arched gate. Other than two Huldah gates there's another crusader era gate, which is now blocked. The southern wall gates were used to enter the temple and the western wall gates were used to exit the temple and descend from Temple Mount. The tomb of Huldah, the Jewish priestess, was probably located in front of these gates, hence the name.

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Interior of the southern tower (believed to have been built by Fatimids) provided direct access to the Haram al-Sharif area from the residential and adminstrative area along the southern wall.

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View looking north northeast at the reconstructed Royal Sturcture located north of the Gate House. Pottery shards discovered within the fill of the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also testify to the dating of the complex to the 10th century B.C.E. Found on the floor were remnants of large storage jars, 3.7 feet (1.15 meters) in height. The large replica storage jars are placed in positions where they were found. This structure and the vessels were destroyed when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE.

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Benjamin Mazar and Eilat Mazar have excavated in the area between Herod's boxed-in Temple Mount and what is known as the City of David, consisting mainly of a saddle between the Temple Mount summit and the steep City of David ridge, and have termed this area "Ophel". The term is commonly used by archaeologists with this meaning.

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This ritual bath (miqveh), one of the several others in the Ophel area, is located just south of the Huldah Gates. It is one of over forty ritual baths that Benjamin Mazar discovered in his excavations south of the Temple Mount. These baths were used by worshipers who purified themselves prior to entering the temple area — via the Double or the Triple Gates.

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The Ophel inscription is one of the several significant artefacts found in the Ophel excavations. It is a 3,000-year-old inscription on a fragment of a ceramic jar. It is the earliest alphabetical inscription found in Jerusalem. Eilat Mazar has dated the potsherds on which the inscription was written to the 10th century BCE.

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