City of David
The City of David is one of Israel’s most important historical and archaeological sites. Located just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, the City of David presents the oldest remains of Jerusalem, from prehistorical to Canaanite times. It also bears significant finds relating to King David, King Hezekiah, and the time of Jesus.
The History of the City of David
Ancient Jerusalem was established on a slope above a significant water source called the Gihon Spring. The oldest finds at the site attest to Canaanite settlement here 5000 years ago. During the 10th century BC, David conquered the site and established it as the capital of the United Monarchy. He named it the City of David, although it was more known as – Jerusalem. Solomon, David’s son, constructed the kingdom’s main temple on a hill above the city, becoming a religious focal point of all Israelite tribes. During the 8th century, the Assyrians conquered the Northern Israelite kingdom, and many Israelite refugees fled to Jerusalem. In 701 BCE, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, laid siege on Jerusalem itself, but it miraculously lasted the assault. The Babylonians later destroyed Jerusalem, but some 70 years later, groups of Jews returned and settled in the City of David.
The City of David Abandoned
In Maccabean times, the city expanded towards the north, but the City of David continued to play an essential role in Jerusalem. Its water was directed to the Pool of Siloam, which became one of Jerusalem’s main ritual baths before entering the Jewish Temple. However, in the subsequent periods, the City of David was neglected and eventually abandoned. In the 19th century, the City of David’s slopes were used for small-scale agriculture, and only in the mid-20th century Arab Muslims populated parts of it.
Modern Research and Resettlement
The Muslim neighborhood of Silwan that developed over the City of David made its research challenging. Nevertheless, various excavations were conducted where possible, unearthing a wealth of finds that attest to the site’s rich history. Since 1986, ELAD organization is developing the site in an unprecedent pace. It purchases lots, sponsors archaeological digs, and enables Jewish families to resettle. Under their management, the city of David is, by far, the most excavated and developed tourist site in Israel.
Touring the City of David
Today, the City of David offers many tour attractions. The main ones are:
- An innovative video presentation at the visitor center with 3d effects. Moreover, it is projected in a hall whose design echoes biblical-era public and royal halls.
- An innovative and dynamic of model of the City of David. Robots move the plates that reflect the site’s appearance in different periods.
- Possible remains of King David’s Palace can be seen beneath the visitor center.
- Area G – A steep slope that yielded many finds from biblical times, including supporting walls of King David’s palace and an archive.
- The Curved Tunnel and Warren Shaft – An underground tunnel dug towards the Gihon spring in Canaanite times. At its lowest point, it later connected to a 15-meter karstic shaft named after its discoverer, Charles Warren.
- The Gihon Spring – Jerusalem’s initial water source was protected in Canaanite times by a massive tower that combined a water reservoir. A water channel carved toward the south was probably created to irrigate agricultural fields in the Kidron valley. Parts of this channel are accessible today.
- Hezekiah’s Tunnel – In the 8th century BC, King Hezekiah directed the water of the Gihon Spring to the City of David’s southern end through a new tunnel. Thus, he secured the city’s water, anticipating an Assyrian assault. Indeed, Jerusalem lasted this Assyrian attack, and Hezekiah’s tunnel continues to direct the water to this day.
The Southern Part
- The Pool of Siloam – The water driven through Hezekiah’s tunnel ended up in a big pool called Pool of Siloam. In the first century the pool functioned as a big ritual bath for Jewish pilgrims, and especially those eager to visit the temple. The New Testament records Jesus performing a miracle at this pool (John 9)
- Area D and E – Like in area G, these areas also yielded many finds reflecting daily life in biblical times.
- King David’s Royal Family Tomb – Archaeologists uncovered partially carved vaulted halls at the southern end of area E. Some suggested that these might be remains of the Royal tombs of King David’s dynasty.
- The Herodian Drainage Channel – A wide street in the first century connected the Pool of Siloam with the Temple Mount area. Uncovering the street in its entirety is a logistic challenge, but since 2011, the drainage channel beneath has been cleared and is accessible. A walk along the drainage channel leads up to the Western Wall, with an option to exit also at the Givati Excavation Park.
- Givati Excavations Park – A former parking lot adjacent to the City of David thoroughly excavated. The finds include evidence of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians, Jerusalem’s main fort (the Hakr) from Maccabean times, a late Roman mansion, and more.
- City of David Nighttime Show – An innovative multimedia Presentation presenting the resettlement of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah, some 2600 years ago.
A tour of the City of David offers a unique and exciting, allowing for a firsthand appreciation of Jerusalem’s rich and tumultuous history.
A tour of the City of David can be combined with a guided day tour of Jerusalem.