There is something magical about finding an actual piece history from a story one has heard since childhood. Chanukah has been celebrated every year for the past few millennia, but this week a site from the story has finally been discovered, directly tying a significant layer of Jewish history to Israel.
The discovery of the Acra fortress has been described by archaeologist Doron Ben Ami, head of the excavation and member of Israel’s Antiquities Authority, as allowing archaeologists and historians to, for the first time, “reconstruct the reality in Jerusalem in this time,” to finally “see the real picture” of the ancient city. The potential findings that the site, and underneath it, offers is incredibly exciting, and is the hallmark of Ben Ami’s career, he told the Times of Israel Tuesday.
According to Ben Ami, the search for Acra has dominated research on Jerusalem for an entire century. Underneath the Givati parking lot of the City of David, near the Old City, lay the archaeologically verified, well-preserved remains of Acra, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The fortress was used by Chanukah antagonist Antiochus (215-164 B.C.E.) in his siege against Jerusalem prior to the famous Maccabean revolt. The Maccabees won a miraculous victory in 141 B.C.E. that is still celebrated to this day.
Around the 60-foot tower and 13-foot-wide wall of the fortress have been found weapons of war, including arrowheads and ballista ammunition, coins stamped with Antiochus’s trademark pitchfork, and shards of wine jars. Biblical mentions of the fortress are in the first and second Book of Maccabees, as well as in writings by famous Jewish historian Josephus.
Appropriately, Acra will be open to visitors by this Chanukah, TOI reports. And, as the Chanukah prayer “V’al Ha’nissim” prophetically says, “in those days, at this time.” This discovery brings special meaning to the holiday in our Days; in our time.