Mike Aquilina

Interreligious Pediatric Archeology

Monday August 14th 2006, 3:03 am

I somehow missed this story when it appeared on Catholic News Service last month, before the bombs went off. Bravo, kids.

Israeli students discover Byzantine-era mosaic

By Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Just as they were preparing for the end of the school year, students from the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam Jewish-Arab school taking part in a yearlong archaeological educational enrichment project uncovered a Byzantine-era mosaic covered with crosses.

The mosaic was apparently part of the floor of the central room of a Byzantine church or convent and includes a medallion with a radius of about three feet decorated with a large black and red cross. Smaller crosses encircled by geometric shapes surround the central cross.

Another mosaic uncovered in a smaller room to the east of the central room also includes small crosses inside geometric designs.

The students also found stucco remains most likely used to decorate the inside walls of the structure, according to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release. Large pottery shards were also discovered, and archaeologists believe they were part of clay jars and jugs used in bath houses.

The archaeological site is on top of a hill overlooking the Ayalon Valley on the main road to Jerusalem, close to the modern-day Trappist monastery at Latrun, and is believed to be the site where Jesus first revealed himself to his apostles following his crucifixion.

“It is not every day that children ages 9 to 12 years old, Jewish and Arabs, uncover Christian archaeological remains which are an integral part of the cultural heritage of this land,” said Hagit Noigbern, director of the Jerusalem Archaeological Center of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which organized the enrichment program.

The IAA and the educational Karev Fund conducted the archaeological enrichment program for the children over the past year.

Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is a cooperative village of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship. The village includes a regular school, a peace school and hotel. It is the fruition of the dream of Dominican Father Bruno Hussar, who in the 1960s envisioned a village of coexistence. In 1970 he was able to begin the village on land leased from the nearby Latrun monastery.