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Jordanian ammunition from Six-Day War found by Western Wall archeological dig

A broken magazine of a Bern light machine gun from the Jordanian ammunition stash. (Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)
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Archaeologists: We got a glimpse of the events that occurred 53 years ago, frozen in time in this water cistern

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In an unprecedented “archaeological” discovery, a stash Jordanian ammunition from the 1967 Six-Day War was unearthed during excavations underneath the lobby of the Western Wall Tunnels.

According to The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and Israel Antiquities Authority, archeologists uncovered rifle magazines full of bullets, a bayonet, and other rifle parts.

“A Jordanian ammunition stash (known as a “slick”)… was hidden in the bottom of a British Mandate period water cistern,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “The excavations are being conducted in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in preparation for a new and fascinating tour in addition to the classic Western Wall Tunnels tour.  

“Israeli police bomb-disposal experts came to the site to examine the findings,” they added.

During the Six-Day War, Jordan and Israel battled tooth and nail for the Old City of Jerusalem and there were even instances of hand-to-hand fighting between the two armies until the IDF broke their way through into the ancient city and finally made it to the Western Wall, affording Jews the opportunity to pray at the holy site for the first time in 19 years. 

. A broken magazine of a Bern light machine gun from the Jordanian ammunition stash.
(Pictures: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

According to Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehila Sadiel, who are the IAA directors of the ongoing excavation site, it was while archaeologists were excavating the water cistern, that this surprising find was made. 

“About ten full magazines of a Bern light machine gun, full clip chargers and two bayonets of a British Lee Enfield rifle [were found],” they said. “Usually, in excavations, we find ancient findings from one or two thousand years ago, but this time, we got a glimpse of the events that occurred 53 years ago, frozen in time in this water cistern.”  

Sadiel and Monnickendam-Givon explained that this area was apparently “an ammunition dump that was purposely hidden by soldiers of the Royal Jordanian Army during the Six-Day War, perhaps when the IDF liberated the Old City.

“The water cistern we excavated served the residential structures of the Moghrabi neighborhood that was built in the area of what is today the Western Wall Plaza,” they added.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Assaf Peretz, who identified the ammunition, explained that this is ammunition that was produced in the UK at the Greenwood and Batley Ltd factories in Leeds, Yorkshire.  

“Based on the headstamp on the rim, the ammunition was produced in 1956 and reached the Royal Jordanian Army,” Peretz said. “The discovery of the Bern light machine gun ammunition stash matches two other Bern guns that were found about a year and a half  ago in a different water cistern in the Western Wall Plaza.” 

He added that those were found in an excavation of IAA archaeologist Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah.

Commenting on the find, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that “along with other glorious discoveries of our nation’s past from the Second Temple period,” they are also excited to discover findings from the war of this past generation, which returned “the Jewish nation’s heart,” and the opportunity “to cling to the stones of the Western Wall.  

“This discovery is a privilege for us,” it added.

Just over a month ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced the discovery of an interesting subterranean network hewn into bedrock from the Second Temple period, which was uncovered in an archaeological excavation at the foot of an impressive 1400-year-old public structure.

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