JERUSALEM, Israel – In the past 50 years, archaeologists have uncovered some of history's most significant finds in and around Jerusalem. Those discoveries became possible when Israelis unified their ancient capital in June of 1967.
When 10-year-old Eilat Mazar first heard that Israel recaptured the Old City, she felt as if part of her family had come home.
"Even as a child, I mean very young, I could sense that this was a huge event," Mazar told CBN's Chris Mitchell. "It's like you get something back. People related to it like returning a lost son. That's what we were expecting, for now it's happening."
Gabi Barkay, who was 23 at the time, said he felt like his apartment added a room.
"It was [as] if I visit the backroom in the apartment in which I live that I was prohibited from entering for years and suddenly it opens," Barkay explained. "Just imagine, it's my house, it is my city and suddenly I can see it with my own eyes and touch it."
Now both Mazar and Barkay are among Israel's leading archaeologists. We talked with Barkay at the Temple Mount Sifting Project, where teenage volunteers were working.
"It was a revolution, and you were part of that revolution," he said. "I started my career then."
We sat down with Mazar at Hebrew University overlooking the city.
Eilat Mazar Sits Down with Chris Mitchell, Photo, CBN News
"After the '67 war, what did it mean for archaeology?" Mitchell asked her.
"I would say that it's a turning point," Mazar said.
Both Barkay and Mazar described how the Six-Day War redefined archaeology in Jerusalem.
"In a couple of years after the Six-Day War, the results of Jerusalem archaeology accumulated to be much more than whatever was done 150 years beforehand," Barkay said.
From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was a city divided by minefields, barbed wire and barricades, but suddenly after the Six-Day War and years of neglect, the doors of ancient Jerusalem opened to archaeologists, who longed to uncover its ancient past.
Mazar's grandfather, Benjamin, worked on the first excavations at the southwestern wall of the Temple Mount.
"My grandfather excavated 10 continuous years without stopping," she said. "This was a fantastic project … they revealed fantastic remains of ancient Jerusalem from all periods."
"It caused a boom of archaeology. There were suddenly budgets for archaeology. There was a public interest in archaeology of Jerusalem," Barkay said. "People come and visit the archaeological sites of Jerusalem."
Gaby Barkay Talks with Chris Mitchell, Photo, CBN News
Since 1967, Mazar and Barkay have made some of Israel's greatest finds.
"We showed and reveal[ed] King David's palace. We showed now more of King Solomon's construction; (the) city just as the Bible describes," Mazar continued. "He built a city wall around the Temple, around his own palace."
"We discovered the earliest biblical manuscripts ever discovered, predating the Dead Sea Scrolls by many centuries," Barkay said. "These are two tiny scrolls of silver. We have the priestly blessing, 'the Lord bless you and keep you' in both of them."
"Did many of these discoveries after the Six-Day War, did they confirm the biblical record of Jerusalem?" Mitchell asked Barkay.
"In general, the answer is yes," he said. "The research that emerged from the results of the excavation fits well the historical data embedded in the Old Testament."
Perhaps Mazar's greatest find brought the Bible to life.
"From the biblical times, finding the seal impression from King Hezekiah himself – this is unparalleled, unheard of – to come as close as you can imagine to a biblical figure, not to mention such a king as King Hezekiah. So to find his seal impression, it's almost touching him," said Mazar.
"Is there any connection between what you've discovered and the time when Jesus was here in Jerusalem?" Mitchell asked.
Excavating in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News
"Yes for sure; yes, for sure," Barkay said. "For example, in the Book of Acts and in the Gospel of John there is a mentioning of the eastern porch of the Temple Mount, which is pre-Herodian, which appears under the name of the porch of Solomon – and over there lies a capital which originates from the porch of Solomon. We have the floors upon which the coins were rolling when Jesus turned upside down the tables of the money changers. We have those very floors. We have those very coins."
"The biblical stories and the New Testament stories, by the way, it goes together because just prove quite accurately the development of Jerusalem the way Jerusalem is described is quite accurate," Mazar said.
Today, 50 years after the war, Jerusalem is an open city. Visitors can come to see the excavations below the City of David, at the pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the blind man or the massive dig next to the walls of the Old City.
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"People can come and see for themselves and this is the best you can ask for," Mazar said. "Come and see."
And for these lovers of history, the city has captured their hearts.
"I come in the morning and sleep with Jerusalem. I come and excavate in Jerusalem, it's 100 percent on my mind, besides my family, we are very family people," Mazar said.
"It is a wonderful city," Barkay said. "There is no other place on earth that can compete with Jerusalem."