City of David – 3000 Yarns of Yore
To say that I had an ‘adventure’ in what is considered the oldest part of the Holy City of Jerusalem, is not giving my experience justice. But adventure it truly was – especially if you consider my sloshing through thigh-high water in Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Getting to the City of David is not difficult in itself. The easiest way is leaving through The Dung Gate then make a quick left (watch for buses and taxi drivers, it’s very narrow there on the street) and walk down Derech HaOfel. Walk on the right hand side for about 100 yards and make your right which takes you straight to the entrance. You’ll see plenty of signs to make sure you’re in the right place.
This Streetwise Jerusalem Map that folds into pocket size was probably the best map I ever had in my life. Incredible detail for Jerusalem, roads were so clearly marked. Even after being there for a while, I always kept one in my bag!
I had asked for a guided tour, and as soon as I booked it, I knew I was stepping back some three millennia. But was I prepared for the spectacular day I had ahead? Not quite, because I had thought this would be yet another historical walk where the guide points at strange writings and dates them to the life and times of Jesus Christ.
About two years ago, the administration of The City finished rebuilding the welcome center and it is truly beautiful. Modern outdoor facility yet it blends so well into the natural landscape. There are a few lines depending upon what you’re there to see. All tellers speak English and will be happy to assist.
My guide and I walked down a suspended walkway over ruins of what he said was David’s palace – the same place from where he saw the beautiful Bathsheba. What I saw from here was not a bathing beauty but the spectacular valleys that surround the city.
I stopped for a brief moment, suspended a few feet over the rocks of the ancient palace and could literally feel myself transported back 3000 years in time, before Jerusalem itself was conquered by David and his armies, this was the seat of his power, the capital of the Israelites. I was literally standing on the spot where David stood and Solomon could have been born!
The views were breathtaking and if you have time, I recommend going to see the 3D movie about the city.
The City of David is an excavation that is ongoing outside and below the walled city of Jerusalem, and I was fascinated with how much we still don’t know today of the city.
A part of the city lies below people’s homes. And even though they have been offered 10 times the value of their homes, they refuse to move and therefore, excavation has been halted in several parts of the city (which is actually quite small in itself)
We went past legacies of the First Temple Period, and saw remnants of a wall built by Nehemiah, that my guide said was the biblical “stronghold of Zion” and mentioned the site where a clay seal was discovered with the name of Jeremiah’s scribe Gemariah, son of Shafan.
From there he took me to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and this was the adventure for me. Built by the eponymous king to protect Jerusalem’s water from an attack by the Assyrians (the main water supply for the city then lay outside the walls of the city, this brilliant decision saved the city and its people), the tunnel forms an intricate system below the city. If you don’t want to get your feet wet, walk through the dry Canaanite water channel (dating back far before the Israelites were there). But if you are up for it, do the sloshing, and you won’t regret it.
The 1760 feet long passageway was dug at both ends and converged at the middle, and if you are going down, water shoes are a must. Also, bring a light bag with you to put in your wallet, phone, shoe’s, too.
I had come prepared, so in I went, armed with my flashlight. It is best to wear a headlamp but a flashlight works just as well. But don’t carry a big bag – my backpack kept getting stuck in some of the narrow parts of the tunnel. The water is at most waist-high, and cold!
As you step off the stone rock into the running water, the tunnel is pitch black, you can’t see the water rushing under yourself, you feel the coldness right up to your knee’s or even waist! Make sure to keep your hands either on the wall to the side and in front of you. The journey is exhilarating, even to think they built this tunnel 2500 years ago in pitch black, and the path seems to go on forever. As I moved my flashlight around, I could see small areas off to the side of the tunnel. My guide explained to me this is where the workers slept and ate. There was no time to go back with the approaching Assyrian army.
Suddenly, my guide disappeared in front of me! But don’t worry, with the tunnel being all stone, I heard his echo from around a sharp bend in tunnel; I had literally just turned 90 degrees! Then another turn and we continued straight. My guide explained to me that this was an error. Workers above the tunnel were supposed to hit a nail in the ground which made nose below for the workers to follow in order to dig straight. I guess here someone wasn’t following directions!
At the end of the tunnel, you find yourself at the Pool of Shiloah, where Christ sent the blind man to wash after He put mud over his eyes. But if you are a Jew, this is the pool where you were to take ritual ablutions before going on to Solomon’s Temple, called a Mikvah.
From here we continued on to the newly opened underground walk along an ancient alley that ends at Robinson’s Arch near the Western Wall, which isn’t a bad idea to do if you’re already wet. That is a great story on its own and I’ll be sharing that one real soon!
However, there isn’t a changing room after the Hezekiah Tunnel walk, and wet pants are hardly suited to a day’s tour of the millennia-old city. So feel free to either walk back up to the entrance of the city, or pay a few shekels for a bus to drive you back to the entrance (small warning, the walk is all upward).
Enjoy your walk and be prepared for trip back in time!
Be sure to check out the official site of The City of David