“And He will say: cast ye up, cast ye up, clear the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of My people. “ (Isaiah 57:14)
An excavation undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority in advance of a sewage pipe installation has uncovered a well-preserved section of an ancient Roman road in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It was part of the Roman Imperial system of roads that criss-crossed the empire.
“The Romans attached great importance to the roads in the empire,” explained David Yeager, excavation director for the IAA. “They invested large sums of money and utilized the most advanced technological aids of the period in order to crisscross the empire with roads. These served the government, military, economy and public by providing an efficient and safe means of passage.
“Way stations and roadside inns were built along the roads, as well fortresses in order to protect the travelers. The construction and maintenance of the roads was assigned to military units, but civilians also participated in the work as part of the compulsory labor imposed on them by the authorities.”
This particular road ran between Jaffa and Jerusalem, via Beit Horon. It was one of two main routes between the cities. It ran from Jaffa to Lod, where it split in two different directions; one towards Shaar Hagay and one towards Modi’in and Beit Horon. Other stretches of the road have been excavated previously, but this is the largest, most well-preserved section uncovered to date. The road is particularly wide, about 8 metres (26 feet), and bordered on both sides with curbstones. It is constructed of large paving stones, fitted together, and is well-worn, indicating heavy use. There is evidence of repair work having been done over the years.
Interestingly, part of the road had been in use as recently as the 20th century. The current-day Bir Nabla road is paved mere centimetres above the ancient road.