The Destruction of the Road to Emmaus
David Bivin has long lived within close proximity of the Roman road that runs from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He has led a number of tours along this route as well, showing pilgrims the way that Jesus walked with two disciples on the day of his resurrection (Luke 24). I had the privilege of being on one of those tours about 20 years ago. But Bivin is no longer guiding these trips because these ancient remains are being gradually destroyed by neglect and construction projects.
This situation has been a burden for Bivin for some time now, and for years he has talked of writing an article to document the destruction, with hope that someone might listen and act. A few weeks ago he published just such an article, beginning with the identification of Emmaus, detailing the archaeological finds at the site, and then presenting evidence of the road’s deterioration.
The article is lavishly illustrated with maps, photos, videos, a chart, and several slideshows showing the conditions over from the last several decades.
When I first became acquainted with the Roman road below Motza, some of the pavement and many of the curbing stones were still clearly visible. Sadly, over the past recent decades I have watched as the Roman road has fallen prey to severe erosion, such that in many places the remains of the road have been completely obliterated. The IAA’s report notes that the condition of the Roman road is poor, adding that “the road in its present state is torn up, and often it is accompanied by the smell of sewage.” The odor of which the IAA’s report complains, is undoubtedly caused by the sewage pipe, which follows the path of the ancient Roman road.
In his conclusion, he notes:
Despite the probable construction of the Roman road below Motza after the time of Jesus, the route it follows traces the same path Jesus and his two disciples followed to Emmaus. The ravine is so narrow that any road built in it could not have been more than a few meters to the left or right of path on which Jesus and his disciples walked. It is therefore a shame to see the remnants of this potent reminder, which has withstood the passing of so many centuries, disappearing so dramatically in so short a time.
This is an important article that should never need to have been written. Well-preserved Roman roads in Israel are sparse, and this one’s proximity to Jerusalem and its connection to New Testament history should have ensured its protection by authorities. We can only hope that someone will listen before it is too late.