City of David

sights / Historic

City of David information

Location
Jerusalem , Israel
Telephone
02 *6033
Getting there
Bus: 1, 2, 38
More information
www.cityofdavid.org.il
Prices
adult/child 29/15NIS, movie 13NIS, Enchanted Jerusalem tour adult/child 16-18yr 80/63NIS, Hebrew-language guided tour adult/child 60/45NIS
Opening hours
8am-5pm Sun-Thu, 8am-2pm Fri Oct-Mar, to 7pm Sun-Thu, to 4pm Fri Apr-Sep
Something wrong?
Submit a correction

Excavations at this site started in the 1850s and are ongoing, proof of how rich an archaeological find it was. The oldest part of Jerusalem, it was a settlement during the Canaanite period and was captured by David, who is said to have brought the Ark of the Covenant here 3000 years ago. The main attraction is Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 500m-long passage of waist-deep water, but there is plenty more to see – allow at least three hours for your visit.

From Dung Gate, head east (downhill) and take the road to the right; the entrance is then on the left. At the visitors centre you can buy water (in summer, you'll need it) and watch a 3D movie about the city. If you intend to walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel – and we suggest that you do – you can change into a swimming costume in the bathrooms and leave your gear in a locker (10NIS); alternatively, wear shorts. You will also need suitable footwear (flip-flops or waterproof shoes) and a torch (flashlight). Key-chain lights can be purchased from the ticket office for 4NIS.

Note that the entrance fee covers admission to the underground areas of the site (Warren's Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of Siloam, Temple Road Ascent); admission should be free if you only explore above-ground areas.

Once you reach the bottom of the hill you can walk back up through the Temple Road Ascent or via the road that passes through the Arab village of Silwan.

Royal Quarter (Area G)

Area G, also called the Royal Quarter, was first constructed in the 10th century BCE, most likely as a fortification wall for a palace on the ridge. During the First Temple period an aristocrat’s home (Achiel’s House) was built against the wall, but it was destroyed along with the Temple in 586 BCE. Judean and Babylonian arrowheads found at the site are vivid reminders of the bloody battle waged here. Archaeologists have also located 51 royal seals (in ancient Hebrew script), including one belonging to Gemaryahu Ben Shafan, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, who is mentioned in Jeremiah 36:10. The seals were all located in one chamber, indicating that the room once served as an office.

Warren’s Shaft

The long, sloping Warren’s Shaft was named after Sir Charles Warren, the British engineer who rediscovered it in 1867. The tunnel, which runs underneath the City of David to the Spring of Gihon, allowed the Canaanites to obtain water without exposing themselves to danger in times of siege. It’s just inside their city’s defence wall and is possibly the tunnel that David’s soldiers used to enter and capture the city, as mentioned in II Samuel 5. Modern archaeologists, however, tend to doubt this theory, suggesting the invaders used a different tunnel. From Warren’s Shaft, you can proceed down to Hezekiah’s Tunnel at the bottom of the hill.

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

This 500m-long underground passage of waist-deep water ends at the Pool of Siloam, where it is said that a blind man was healed after Jesus told him to wash in it. The purpose of the tunnel was to channel water flowing from the Gihon Spring, a temperamental source that acts like a siphon, pouring out a large quantity of water for some 30 minutes before drying up for several hours.

Gihon means ‘gushing’, and the spring is the main reason the Canaanites settled in the valley rather than taking to the adjacent high ground. There is believed to be enough water to support a population of about 2500 people. The tunnel was constructed around 700 BCE by King Hezekiah to bring the water of the Gihon into the city and store it in the Pool of Siloam, so preventing invaders, in particular the Assyrians, from locating the city’s water supply and cutting it off (an account of this is in II Chronicles 32:3).

Although the tunnel is narrow and low in parts, you can wade through it; the water is normally between 0.5m and 1m deep. The tunnel is as little as 60cm wide at some points.

About 20m into the tunnel, the cavern turns sharply to the left, where a chest-high wall blocks another channel that leads to Warren’s Shaft. Towards the tunnel’s end the roof rises. This is because the tunnellers worked from either end and one team slightly misjudged the other’s level. They had to lower the floor so that the water would flow. A Hebrew inscription was found in the tunnel (a copy can be seen in the Israel Museum): carved by Hezekiah’s engineers, it tells of the tunnel’s construction.

The walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel takes about 20 minutes. If you don’t want to get wet there is a second tunnel without water, which takes about 15 minutes to walk through. To find the entrance to the dry tunnel, go left just before the opening to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Children must be at least five years of age to walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

Pool of Siloam

As you exit from Hezekiah’s Tunnel there is a small pool with round stones. This is the Byzantine Pool of Siloam, which was built in the 5th century to commemorate the Christian tradition of the healing of the blind man (John 9). The Byzantines built the pool because they could not find the Shiloach Pool, which was buried under a thick layer of debris and garbage.

Shiloach Pool

From the Pool of Siloam, head up the stairs and out to an open area with crumbling steps that lead down to a small pond. This is the Shiloach Pool. Discovered during excavations in 2005, the pool was built during the Second Temple period and was used for purification rituals. Archaeologists and historians have theorised that this is the pool where Jesus is said to have healed a blind man.

Eastern Stepped Street

From the Shiloach Pool head up the flight of wooden steps to the Eastern Stepped Street, an ancient flight of stone steps. A drainage ditch is located under the steps and it was here that archaeologists found Roman-era coins and pottery, leading historians to believe that the ditch served as a hideout for Jews while the city was being sacked in 70 CE.

Temple Road Ascent

This recently discovered 650m-long tunnel is a drainage ditch that channelled water out of the Temple Mount area. The bottom of the tunnel is near the Shiloach Pool; from here it’s possible to walk uphill back to the Old City, exiting near Dung Gate. Note that the tunnel ceiling is low and the walls are narrow in spots, so if you are particularly tall or wide maybe give this one a miss.

Controversy

It's inevitable that controversy surrounds any site that concerns Jerusalem's history and the City of David is no different. Key issues of contention include the treatment of Palestinian residents in the neighbourhood and complaints by archeologists that the official narrative presented is Jewish-centric and politicised.