Lod’s hidden treasure


Can the Israeli city of Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city near Tel Aviv that is struggling economically, be revitalized by a 1,700-year old mosaic?

The New York Times reports:

LOD, Israel — The beauty of the exquisitely preserved ancient mosaic only seemed to underline the incongruity of its surroundings.

The late-Roman-era mosaic floor, one of the largest and finest in Israel, was unveiled by the authorities last week for just the second time since it was discovered 13 years ago in the dilapidated eastern section of this poor town near the international airport, south of Tel Aviv.

Some 1,700 years old, the magnificent tiled floor spreads over almost 2,000 square feet, shaded from the harsh summer sun by a thin awning and surrounded by a canvas fence. A panoply of colorful depictions of birds, fish, exotic animals and merchant ships, the mosaic conjures up an intriguing reminder of Lod’s more glorious past.

The archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority believe the mosaic, which lacks any inscriptions, was commissioned by a wealthy individual who owned a grand villa here. Lod, which is mentioned in the Bible, was an important center in ancient times, and this part of it is known to have been a neighborhood of the rich.

Today, the site is overlooked by drab apartment blocks with laundry hanging on lines out of windows, surrounded by garbage-strewn yards. A mixed city of Jewish immigrants and Muslim and Christian Arabs, modern Lod is usually associated with hardship, its diverse population largely of low socioeconomic standing and often described by local officials as a challenge.

Now, though, the authorities here hope to revitalize Lod and turn it, of all things, into a major tourist destination thanks to the treasures lurking under the city’s more modern layers of earth.

Full story here.

Recommended from JTA