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The sites of the great Roman and Byzantine cities of Caesarea, Beit She’an, and Banias have been uncovered, as have the Negev towns of Avdat, Halutza, and Mamshit, which prospered at this time. From the Muslim period, there are the remains of the ancient city of Ramle and the palace of Khirbet al-Mafjar (Hisham’s Palace) in Jericho. Remains from the Crusader period include many fortresses and towns – Acre, Caesarea, Belvoir and Qal’at Nimrod.
Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, has been the focus of extensive archeological activity and remains of 5,000 years of history have been revealed: in the City of David, the walls of the Canaanite city and remains of structures from the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel, including sophisticated underground water systems; from the Second Temple period, the remains of public buildings along the retaining walls of the Temple Mount, which stand to this day, the remains of the splendid residences of the Upper City in today’s Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the ruins of which remained in situ after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, and hundreds of rock-cut tombs, some lavishly decorated, which testify to the wealth of the city that was destroyed; many churches and religious buildings from the Byzantine period, the most famous among them the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; from the period of Muslim rule, the mosques on the Temple Mount and a government center, the remains of which have been excavated south of the Temple Mount; from the Crusader period, city walls, churches, and covered markets; from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods minarets, which adorn the Old City skyline. The walls of the Old City and the citadel next to the Jaffa Gate were built during the reign of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566).
There are some 20,000 recognized sites of antiquity in Israel that are protected by law. Every year, dozens of sites from every period of history and in all parts of the country are excavated. Licenses to excavate are issued to expeditions – from Israel and abroad – by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is entrusted with the preservation of the country’s antiquities. Israel’s Antiquities Law requires every site slated for construction to be examined for archeological remains and a salvage excavation to be conducted if deemed necessary. The state also has the right to preserve finds of public interest; some of the more important of these are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The museum also houses the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved, and some are on view to the public.
Much effort, as well as resources, are also invested in preserving and restoring ancient sites and dozens of them, from all periods of history, have been opened to the public.
(Israel Antiquities Authority)