“Emek Shaveh” Requests the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter to Consider Opening the “Nea Church” to the Public
The Nea is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Jewish Quarter, yet it has remained neglected and closed to the general public for over 40 years. Recently, following an inquiry by Emek Shaveh, the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter decided to consider opening the church to the public.
Despite its importance, the Nea church has been standing in a state of neglect and obscurity in the southern end of the Jewish Quarter for over 40 years. The church was built by the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian in the 6th century CE. Its full name is the New Church of the Theotokos. The construction of this church constituted one of the most impressive building enterprises in Jerusalem in the Ancient World, stretching over 147X58 meters (about the size of a soccer field).
Scholars knew the church had existed, but its location remained unknown until Professor Nahman Avigad unearthed its remains during an excavation he conducted in the Jewish Quarter, in the 1970s.
While other sites that were unearthed during archaeological excavations in the Jewish Quarter, such as the Herodian Quarter, the Wide Wall and others underwent conservation and developed into major tourist sites, the Nea remained in a state of obscurity. The gate that leads into the enormous halls of the church is locked. In order to visit the church, it is necessary to coordinate a time in advance with the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter.
Recently “Emek Shaveh” reached out to the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter with a request that they make the site presentable and safe for visitors and open the church’s gates to the general public all week long. Herzl Ben Ari, CEO of the Jewish Quarter Development Company, wrote in response: “The company held a consultation tour with safety and preservation specialists. The conclusion is that a large monetary investment will be required in order to carry out the extensive preservation and safety works before opening the site to the public… after an in-depth examination of the options, the company will make a decision that will account for all the relevant factors.”
Emek Shaveh’s Response: “We are pleased that the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter understands that a structure of international historical and archaeological importance like the Nea Church cannot remain closed to the public. We welcome the company’s decision to look into the matter and hope that it will ultimately allow the public to enjoy one of the city’s most important sites. Since the government announced very recently that it has transferred over 2 million shekels to the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter for the purpose of developing tourist sites in the Jewish Quarter, we are convinced that the company will be able to recruit the funds necessary for the preservation and development of a church which carries such archaeological and historical importance.