In the potted histories we grew up on, Jerusalem was always equated with the Old City. Now, after years of digging, archaeologists say that the core of Jerusalem is not there at all, but outside the Old City walls, on a rocky ridge opposite Mount Moriah (famous for being the place where Abraham planned to sacrifice his son Isaac but luckily had second thoughts). After conquering the Jebusites, a Canaanite people, over 3,000 years ago, it was this spot – Ir David - that King David chose to establish his monarchy and build a palace. Walls, passageways, water channels, seals, coins and other artifacts unearthed at the site have changed our whole conception of where and how Jerusalem was born.
Excavations in Jerusalem are always problematic. Wherever you stick your spade, evidence of the past pops up and invariably disturbs the life of the people living there now. This is particularly true in and around the Old City, where thousands of years of history have been covered over with a dense patchwork of slums, plastered on top of whatever was there before.
A few years ago, Ir David (David’s City) was declared a national park and opened to the public. Excavations are still going on, but underneath the asphalt and the concrete lie an astounding maze of ancient roads, water conduits, the homes of priestly families, even a biblical era toilet and post-office.
Kids and adventure-loving (non-claustrophobic) adults will love the First Temple tour, which includes wading through an ancient water tunnel in the pitch black (flashlights and appropriate footwear are required for this). We went on the information-packed Second Temple tour (2 hours). The grand finale was walking on a Roman road with a staircase presumed to lead all the way up to the Temple Mount (that is the theory - meanwhile the dig goes on), and exiting through an ancient sewer. Guided tours begin with a 3-D historical movie that provides some background (Hint: Don’t expect Avatar). The cost is 35-45 shekels per person, depending on which tour you choose.
Fascinating stuff. Don’t miss it!
This is the original Jerusalem, the town that King David built 3,000 years ago, the center of the universe for the Jewish faith. Today many parts of this buried city are being uncovered and you can see some of it at the visitors center and also walk the length of Hezkiah's water tunnel. The tunnel was built to link the fresh water spring with the city of David so they would have a constant supply of fresh water even if the city was under siege. Your walk begins at the bottom of a series of stairs, some stone, some spiral metal, some wooden boards and even the old pavers from the city of David....the last carved stone steps that take you into the tunnel where the passage narrows down to the width of your shoulders, this is NOT a trip for claustrophobics. The roof often seems to press down on you and the sides begin to narrow and you are walking in very cold spring water just below your knees. Many times you have to edge forward sideways where the passage is too narrow as you put each foot forward you feel to make sure the floors surface is even...take a small light for there is NO natural light or openings here, you are in total darkness, we tried turning out all our lights and all you could see were spots seemingly floating before your eyes, the afteraffects of the light we had just extinguished. The tunnel is only a few hundreds of meters long, but it feels like you have walked half a day. At the end you emerge out into the spring itself.
Before you begin your journey into to bowles of the earth they give you a nice 3D presentation on the history of the site and its rediscovery.
I have added a few extra intenet sites that show some decent photos.
On Friday morning after the visit to the Israel Museum we came to the City of David. This land on a ridge outside just outside the Old City walls was where David set up his city, having captured it from the Jebusites. His son Solomon built the Second Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock and expanded the city northwards but this was where Jerusalem started ( as far as current knowledge goes ) and was within the walls during the First Temple period. The best way to see the area is to head for the City of David's Visitor Centre and take one of their guided walks. It's not far from the Dung Gate in the Old City.
Far and away the biggest attraction here is wading through the 2,700 year old Hezekiah's Tunnel and yes it's wading not walking as the water is knee-deep in places. Being rampantly claustophobic I decided to pass on the tunnel and spent the time on the observation platform of the centre and wandering round the immediately surrounding area. This proved to be an excellent decision on my part as it gave me an hour and a half to sit and look and really absorb what was all around me. What is most interesting from this vantage point is the view across the Kidron Valley below and across to the Arab settlement of Silwan on the other side. One of my regrets about this trip was that I didn't get to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and that I really didn't engage with East Jerusalem in the same way I did with the Western side of the city. Here we were right under the dome of the El Aqsa Mosque and the street ouside was full of people attending the Friday service. Looking across to Silwan, which is a very typically Jerusalem cityscape of a hill teeming with white houses, I really bonded with Jerusalem and made a pact with myself to come back soon. Later, walking downhill to meet the others emerging from the tunnel, was another chance to see more of the city, which in parts here was almost rural. To my delight I passed several pomegranate trees with ripe fruit hanging from the branches.
If you're young or young in spirit [and you have gold in your heart and not betwen your teeth] - enrich your Jerusalem's experience with BIBLICAL HEZEKIAH's TUNNEL.
The City of David became a central and well-protected city at 19th century BCE. The first reason why this location was chosen is its proximity to GIHON SPRING. WATER, the source of life, was a crucial issue in this area, at the edge of the desert.
In the Canaanite period [18th century BCE] an underground tunnel was hewn serving as a protected passageway to the spring. The upper part of the water system was discovered by Charles Warren in 1867, and was cleared by archaeologists in 1995.
In the year 701 BCE Assyrian King Sanheriv rose up and laid siege to Jerusalem. As part of the preparation to defend Jerusalem from the siege, Hezekiah the king of Judea diverted the water from the Gihon to a pool betwwen the walls of the southern end of the city. [Chronicles 2, 32:30].
The diversion was accomplished by hewing a tunnel 533 meters in length. An inscription in ancient Hebrew writing, discovered in 1880, describes that the tunnel was hewn from two directions simultaneously. The joy of the diggers while meeting of the two groups - documented on that inscription
The walk through the tunnel takes about 40 minutes. The height of the water is above the knees [approx. 70 cm].
You can bring flashlight [or rent one in the entrance] and water shoes.
Candles are not allowed.
David, the king, was lyrical, heroic, the fair-haired boy of early Biblical history. A charismatic, passionate, energetic and virile redhead, David was a child star - he defeated the giant Goliath. He forged a friendship with Saul's son Jonathan that sets a standard for selfnessness. When he was not fighting Philistines, seducing women, expanding and unifying the kingdom, David wrote devotional poems, Psalms, celebrating his love for God.
In the highlight of his career, David was the one who conquered what is now known as Jerusalem, what was known as IR DAVID, the city of David, and established it as the capital city - and the emotional epicenter of Jewish life. But he was not pure enough to build the Holy Temple, for, as a warrior, his hands were stained with blood.