Tzurim Valley Park in Jerusalem

 

Emek Tzurim National Park, meaning valley of the rocks in Hebrew, is located just outside the Old City walls of Jerusalem. The park lies between the Mount of Olives, Mt. Scopus and the Kidron valley. Covering 42 acres of open space with Mediterranean vegetation and olive trees, the park was declared a national park in 2000. The declaration was intended to preserve the natural vegetation within the park, which surrounds the Old City walls. The park offers a magnificent view of Jerusalem's ancient and modern neighborhoods.

The Tzurim Valley Park is also home to the Emek Tzurim sifting project. The project came about when the Muslim Authority, the Waqf, began a project to expand the Al Aqsa Mosque, which lies on Temple Mount. While the project raised concerns as to the preservation of various archeological finds beneath the Temple Mount, the removed soil was dumped in the Kidron Valley. Once the digging was completed, the Emek Tzurim sifting project recruited volunteers, each donating an hour of their time to sift through the soil and remove any findings with an archaeological value. Thus far, this project has led to the discovery and recovery of coins and paving stones from the Second Temple.

Volunteering in the Emek Tzurim sifting project is open to locals, visitors and tourists, including children. The project allows visitors to take part in the archeological process, rescuing ancient items with religious and historic value. Volunteers are encouraged to wear work clothes, and generally participate in the wet screening phase.

In this phase, volunteers select a bucket and soak its content in water. The content is then spread on the sifter, and the volunteer must sift through the contents to identify any man made materials. These materials include pottery, bones, metals, glass shards, coins, jewelry, mosaic stones and processes material. If a volunteer encounters any such item, it is immediately passed on to a team of archaeologist for immediate registration and identification. Once the volunteer has completed the screening, a member of staff will review the screen before the contents is thrown away.

The Tzurim Valley also contains a beautiful park, which is ideal for picnics with a wonderful Old City view. Many of the fascinating venues in the valley are relatively unknown, and are not visited by many tourists. However, the area is easily accessible with a map or a local guide, who will show you through the valley and offer insights into its rich history.

The accessible route is easy to walk and navigate. Participation in the sifting project is open to all, but visitors are advised to register in advance for volunteering. A small donation to the project is generally requested, and is used to facilitate volunteer training and insurance.