By COLlive and Jerusalem Post
Photos by Israel Bardugo
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation unveiled a fully excavated and restored grand hall dating back to the 14th century in the tunnels under the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, last Sunday.
The hall, which has been converted into an educational center, cost millions of dollars and took 10 years of careful oversight by Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) to complete.
Fully funded by Jewish billionaire and philanthropist Gennady Bogolyubov, the educational visitors’ center will address the genealogy of the Jewish nation and its connection to Jerusalem, officials said.
“I did this because of my strong belief that Jews all over world can feel safe because of the State of Israel,” Bogolyubov said at the gala unveiling, produced by Fleishman Productions, which he attended with his wife and four young children.
Bogolubov, an industrialist originally from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, currently based in London, added that “Everyone must contribute what they can – some contribute by joining the army, some by national service. I did what I can do.”
He was warmly thanked by Israel’s former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowicz and Soli Eliav, director-general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and a friend of the donor.
Also in attendance were Dnepropetrovsk Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rabbi Pinchas Althaus of Cholon’s Rasko neighborhood, Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, Director of Chabad of Belgravia in London, and Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino.
According to the IAA, the hall – adorned with highly stylized arches which stand on broad, tall stone pillars – was first detected underground adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza and revealed a window to aqueducts from the early 14th century.
Bogolubov paid approximately $20 million to excavate the site, as well as the four other areas below the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue, also known as the Shomrei haChomos Synagogue located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.