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July 18, 1986 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LIFE IN ISRAEL

Amateur Archeologist
Works In His Cellar

has not yet followed that tunnel to
its end, since it stretches under
the street and under many
neighboring houses.
aifa — A man went
The area did not remain com-
down into the basement
pletely unoccupied in the post-
of his home and began
Temple period. A huge Byzantine
to dig. For weeks and for
cicstern, in excellent condition,
months he dug away, going ever
was uncovered alongside the
deeper into the ground, boring
house, and will soon be converted
his way through impacted rub-
into a small concert hall. Initial
ble and debris. He did not strike
experiments with performance of
either oil or water, but he did
baroque music give promise of
strike historic treasure.
unique acoustic facilities.
The history of the place pre-
Theo Siebenberg, son of a fam-
ily of Belgian diamond mer-
cedes our anonymous Jewish fam-
chants, fled from the Nazis and
ily as well, for they had con-
found a haven in the U.S. Theo
structed their home over what
used to be burial vaults of about
grew up with visions of a home,
and after the Six-Day War found
the Eighth Century, B.C.E., when
the place was still outside the city
that home in Israel. He had the
means to purchase a stone house
limits. Records indicate the vaults
on the hill overlooking the Tem-
had been emptied, the bones
taken elsewhere, and the ground
ple Mount, on the edge of the
desanctified when it became
Jewish Quarter, in what was
necessary to accommodate
known in ancient times as the
Upper City.
Jerusalem's expanding popula-
tion — 2,000 years ago.
It was a spacious home, by Is-
rael standards, occupying four
Jerusalem's archeologists have
floors, but Theo Seibenberg was
not been happy at Siebenberg's
digging, because he is not a pro-
looking for roots. He watched the
archeologists busily at work ex-
fessional. He gives them due cre-
dit for their magnificent recon-
cavating the Jewish Quarter, and
struction of the Cardo and the old
his heart leaped at the sight of the
Jewish Quarter, but says that he
streets and shops and ruined
does not seek to compete with
buildings dating back to the days
of the Temple. It was then that he
them. He wants to establish his
decided to go home and explore
own, personal place in the chain of
Jewish history.
what lay under his house.
For weeks and months he dug
Two chance finds served to em-
away, carefully sifting every bas-
phasize the continuity of that his-
tory, he said: flint arrow heads
ket of sand and stone. He em-
dating back to the Roman period.
ployed workmen to dig with him,
On the same day that these were
each under instructions to dispose
of no rubble until it had been care-
uncovered, he came across a rusty
fully inspected. The excavation
old machine gun, of Hagannah
vintage, which the Jews of the Old
went deeper. Excited hopes rose
when they began coming across
City apparently hid from prying
British eyes.
charred remnants and soot-
covered stones, all indicating a
Theo and his wife, Miriam,
have no children. They have es-
major fire and destruction on the
site. It was soon thereafter that he
tablished a foundation, the
struck gold, historical gold,
Jerusalem Historical Institute, to
penetrating into the ruins of a
carry on their work and maintain
the public museum which he
Jewish home which had existed
almost 2,000 years ago.
plans to open in the house. Thus
far, he says, he has put $3 million
The relics were small — a ring,
into the project. The knowledge of
an inkwell, a perfume bottle, a
bronze bell, buttons, keys, nails,
how much more there is still to be
done keeps him young.
stone weights, pieces of shattered
utensils. The walls of the buried
home were carefully uncovered.
And still Siebenberg continued to
dig down. It became necessary to
put up retaining walls, and many
tons of concrete went into the
ever-widening pit, to prevent the
house, and indeed the whole
street, from caving in.
New York — The American
Jewish Joint Distribution Com-
For almost ten years he dug
mittee invites applications for
away, and only a few people knew
the Ralph I. Goldman Fellow-
his secret. After he had gone down
ship in international Jewish
the equivalent of four floors, and
Communal Service for 1987.
he had installed lighting and con-
The award will be presented
venient access, he let the world
to a candidate with demon-
know what he had found.
strated talent in the practice
Proudly Siebenberg points out
and study of Jewish communal
the layout of the rooms, the loca-
service and who shows a strong
tion of the family mikveh and the
interest in international Jewish
special mikveh for guests. It was
communal work. The selected
obviously a wealthy family —
applicant will spend a year of
Jews who lived across the valley
work-study in the New York
from the Temple, Jew who met an
headquarters
of the AJDC, or in
unknown but presumably tragic
the Paris or Jerusalem field
end. Or did they manage to escape
office.
in time through the exit tunnel
For information, write the
which they, and perhaps their
Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship,
neighbors as well, dug in their
AJDC, 711 Third Ave., New
own basement, as emergency es-
York, N.Y. 10017. Deadline is
cape in time of need? Siebenberg
Oct. 15.

CARL ALPERT

Special to The Jewish News

III

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