A happy crew at the end of the tunnel, at the Siloam Pool.
I have always been fascinated with Hezekiah’s Tunnel–a tunnel hastily built to bring water into a walled city ahead of a siege from an all-powerful nation; a tunnel built through solid rock using only the tools of a Middle Iron Age civilization; a tunnel built coming from both ends to meet in the middle…it’s fascinating to my archeology mind, to my geology mind, to my war history mind.
Yesterday we got to actually traverse Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and it was everything I was hoping for!
(That almost never happens, you know. Sometimes I build stuff up in my head so much that the actual event feels like a letdown.)
With Eva recovering from her faint on Sunday, we deliberately took a slower approach to the day, and didn’t actually get going until around 10am. Eva chose to rest and relax for the day at the apartment, and so we were only eight for our adventure. We bused into the city center, just outside the Western Wall. The City of David is on the lower slopes of a hill just south of the Temple Mount.
The weather yesterday and today (and hopefully tomorrow, when we go to Masada) was/is GORGEOUS. Highs no more than 82 degrees, clouds to cover the sun every so often, and cooling breezes. We feel very blessed and super lucky.
Bus to the City of David–a blessedly non-crowded bus. Not the norm.
There was a drummer and an oboe and a big huge celebration going on at the Western Wall entry today. They were singing the only Hebrew song we know (Havenu Shalom Alechem), so that was fun. We joined in.
First glimpse of the 600 BC ruins in the City of David. At the City of David, we bought tour tickets for 1300 (1pm), and explored a little (LaDonna and I explored the gift shop first, hahahaha). Gee decided they were not interested in trying to navigate all the stairs on the tour, and so decided to stay behind and “chill” in the shade. Unfortunately, we got our wires crossed and the tour was three hours and not two, so Gee wasn’t thrilled with the extra hour wait. They were so patient, though, and good-natured about it. I’m grateful for such kind and considerate children!
Sixth Century BC house of a rich man (one of Lehi’s friends?), City of David
Across the Kidron Valley to the First Temple Period tombs–under the apartment buildings, you can see some rocks with little square windows. These are Jewish tombs that are around 2800 years old. The tour started with a 3D movie (our second in the Holy Land), which was instructive but very propagandist and over-the-top. We thoroughly enjoyed it. 🙂 Then we climbed to the observation tower and admired the view while our guide oriented us.
Hebs looking over the Kidron Valley, with the Jewish cemeteries in the background. City of David.
Em and the Kidron Valley, with the building covering the Gihon Spring below (the red roofed building at the bottom left corner).
View from the other direction, al-Aqsa Mosque dome (silver plated) in the center distance. Our next stop was the (still working) excavations of the “Large Stone Structure” aka David’s Palace. There were many, many stairs–as much as I missed Gee and Eva, it was probably best they didn’t accompany us.
In the excavation of the “Large Stone Structure”, which is the largest building thus discovered in this area–many archeologists believe that this is the royal “House of Cedar” built for King David.
Stone Palace, City of David
“Stepped Stone Structure” Retaining and platform support rock wall, either 13 C. BC (Jebusite periods) or 10th C. BC (the time of David).
LaDonna, Yummy, Zee, City of David Tour.
Em and Bradley, City of David Tour
This is the “House of Ahiel”, a typical four-room dwelling, with a probable second story. This was a rich man’s home, as evidenced by the discovery of a privy and cesspit adjacent to the house (middle part of picture). We really loved the House of Ahiel, mostly because it is from the same time period as Lehi and Nephi’s Jerusalem. It was the house of a rich man, which Lehi presumably was, and within the city walls, which presumably Lehi’s house was as well. It’s fun to think about Lehi and Sariah and their boys growing up in this type of house and this area.
Hebs in the sun, City of David tour.
Keryn and Bradley, City of David tour
Our marvelous guide, Nathan. He truly made our tour fabulous, interesting, and funny.
We are descending through one of the Jebusite channels that protected the approach to the Gihon Spring.
Descending through the Jebusite channels (was once open to the sky, I believe)
Tool marks on the limestone
Possible Abrahamic or Melchizedek age tunnel. Wow!
Warren’s Shaft! (See Hezekiah’s Tunnel post)
Canaanite pool to catch the water of the intermittent Gihon Spring. (Jebusite time) When we got to the tunnel, most of our tour group split off to walk through the DRY, short Canaanite tunnel. Em decided to go with them. The rest of our family (and two of the others in the tour) decided to brave the (somewhat chilly) waters and narrow passageways of Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
This is a terrible picture, but also a terribly exciting picture. The Gihon Spring, itself!! (The Gihon Spring is a karstic spring, coming from the hole-ridden limestone.)
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is so incredibly narrow, not lit (hence the flashlights), and has water (obviously). We were in single file, so you’re going to see a lot of pictures of Zee’s back. 🙂
Using only the technology available in 700 BC, the workers cut through solid limestone. Stunning!
There were plenty of parts that we had to hunch over to fit.
The water was usually no higher than just above my ankles, but you can see on Zee’s jeans how deep it was in parts (mostly in the beginning).
Having the time of my life.
Blurry picture of the floor of the tunnel. It was fairly smooth, but just uneven enough to make it interesting.
More blurry pictures
Sometimes the ceiling was so low you had to duck, sometimes it was twice or three times higher.
Hebs, LaDonna, Yum, Zee (Bradley was behind me)
The (replica) inscription of the meeting of the two sides of the tunnel–remember that they had two teams digging, one from the spring and one from the pool at the end. The actual inscription (oldest inscription using the paleo-Hebrew alphabet) is at the Istanbul museum.
Things I wish could have been different: I wish it wasn’t so crowded, so I could have paused more in the tunnel. I wish it wasn’t so LOUD–the group behind us were singing and wailing and shouting and ululating and it was very uncomfortable for my ears. But those were totally minor things altogether.
The tunnel was everything I was hoping for!
My mother has been looking forward to this for a really long time. She had a GREAT time.
LaDonna at the Siloam Pool end of the tunnel.
Keryn at the Siloam Pool end of the tunnel.
My cute crew. (Yum, Zee, Bradley, Hebs) We met up with Em and our tour group at the Herodian stairs. Em had a marvelous time, finding out more really cool things and neat facts. Our tour guide kindly recapped a few last things for the waterlogged tunnel-explorers.
Herodian stairs leading to the Temple Mount. These unassuming looking stairs were really amazing and powerful. These stairs existed during the time of Christ, and might have been used by the Savior Himself. The other cool thing about the stairs is the level of engineering–the steps are the correct size to allow you to use the opposite leg every two steps–leading with your left, then leading with your right…etc. So cool.
The glassed in holes in the stairs show the sewer and gutter under the road. During the Roman destruction of the city in AD 70, people tried to hide from the troops by pulling up the stones and escaping into these tunnels. According to Josephus, these people were unsuccessful–they were cornered, caught, and slain. Coins, pottery with foods, and swords were found in the AD 70 period.
Lots of big grins during this tour.
The drainage/sewage tunnel under the Herodian road. City of David. To return, we chose to shun the 5 shekel shuttle and the above ground sidewalk, and took the underground sewer/drainage tunnel. This was cool, and amazing, but really long and uphill and slippery and walking for 30 minutes sometimes hunched over got old fast. I’m still glad we did it, even if Zee and Hebs sped ahead of us and didn’t realize Yummy was trying to keep up. When Yummy got out, they were gone–walking over to the Visitor Center which was not necessarily clearly marked–and she couldn’t see Dad and Mom and Grandma and Em, and it was a little fraught for a time. I’m sorry she got lost in the Herodian Tunnel, but at least there wasn’t too many places to peel off.
The walls were green with moss and lichen.
And it went on and on and one. Zee and Hebs went ahead, Yummy tried to and got “lost”, and Em and LaDonna stayed with Bradley and I.
Current excavations at the City of David.
They are finding Muslim markets, Byzantium buildings, Roman villas, Second Temple bathhouses and cisterns, fortifications from the middle Second Temple, and even houses and public buildings from the First Temple period.
We gathered back up and refreshed with cool water and ice creams, we let the ever patient Gee choose dinner–McDonald’s! American food for the win. First we had to navigate rush hour on public transport with a wheelchair. Everyone was so kind. We manage to rearrange and make room for a nursing mother, another wheelchair, and add money to someone’s bus card. It was awesome. And crowded.
Gee on the bus headed to dinner.
A very extremely crowded bus.
Zee, channeling Daniel-san from “The Karate Kid”
Something something from Gravity Falls that got my kids really excited.
Yummy at McDonalds
My sisters and I used to read the Mr. Men and Little Miss books when we were small. It’s so funny to see them here in Israel (and also in the airport at London). Such a memory!
It was such an exciting and EXHAUSTING day.