Tourists flock to the Old Town of Jerusalem within the walled city, but few realise that the real ancient city of Jerusalem lies to the South West of the old city. The City of David is the first place in Jerusalem where names of people mentioned in the Bible were found on inscriptions.
Located on the Ophel Hill, near to Mount Zion and at the bottom of the Southern slope of Mount Moriah, are the ancient ruins of the City of David. Don’t go to Jerusalem without seeing one of the most excavated archaeological site in Israel.
The City of David is still actually inhabited – approximately 60 Arab families and 60 Jewish families live there. The are also currently 10 archaeological projects going on there (at the time of visiting – Easter 2017).
Zion is the fortress David conquered and turned into the city. But there was a city already there 3000 years ago – this is the Jerusalem that was mentioned in the Bible at the time of Abraham.
The area between Central Valley and Kidron Valley is the southern slope of Mount Moriah. This valley is mostly filled in today. The Kidron Valley itself was 10m deeper at time of Abraham.
The City of David – What evidence is there for a 4000 year old city?
So, what evidence is there of a 4000 year old (early Bronze Age) city located at the city of David? Firstly, there is practical evidence – there is evidence of water from the Gikon Spring and protective defences. All ancient cities needed a water supply and protection. Secondly, there is textual evidence. King David saw mountains all around him according to the book of Psalms and the descriptions match the geographical surroundings of the City of David. Finally, there is the archeological evidence that continues to be uncovered today.
A viewing platform is currently being built so that visitors can be seated for talks and explanations facing the ancient ruins.
The Archeological Dig for King David’s Palace
Excavations on the archaeological site of the City of David commenced in 1867, and have been continuing ever since – that’s 150 years of digging!
Archaeologist Elat Mazar (female) thought that David’s Palace was under the visitors centre! Her grandfather was the first archaeologist to dig here under state of Israel. After the ‘6 Day War’ he was in charge of excavations up on the southern wall.
The time of King David – 10 century BCE – is controversial for two reasons – not everyone agrees on the date and also, no hardcore evidence has been found. However, even if King David’s Palace is not exactly the excavation near the visitors centre, it is definitely somewhere near by!
During the 1st Temple Period, David conquered the city and built his palace. In the excavation site of the palace, there are pillars that held up a second story.
Ahiel’s House – City of David and the Evidence for Jeremiah
Around the corner from David’s Palace is the house of Ahiel – so called because this is the name that was found on a piece of pottery during the excavation. Ahiel certainly had some money – it was a great location and a big house for the first temple period.
According the Biblical accounts, there was Idol worship here! Murder! Corruption! Intrigue and injustice! So, God sent prophet Jeremiah, a Levitical priest who was likely born between 650 and 645 B.C. Did the people listen? No! Why should we, they asked? We have wealth!
Jeremiah was constantly running and hiding, until finally, the people threw him into a pit! Jeremiah was saved by a slave, and finally sees the destruction and burning of the temple.
Archaeologist Shiloh found 51 seal impressions in this area, some with relevant names from the Bible that evidence Jeremiah! (Read more here)
The Kidron Valley
From Ahiel’s house, there is a viewpoint where you can look over the Kidron Valley, the valley separating the Temple Mount from Mount of Olives. If you look down to the Kidron Valley from the City of David, you will have a clear view of the square caves cut into the rock – they are actually first temple period burial tombs.
A young kid who was helping archeologists once went in to scrub one of the tombs about 500m from the City of David and came out with clay vessels. He went in with a hammer, got bored and bashed the floor to reveal clay vessels protecting 2 silver scrolls. The silver scrolls contained the earliest biblical verse – the book of numbers – they were 2700 years old!
The most exciting part of our city of David tour was yet to come – the exploration of Hezekiah’s tunnels. This part of the tour takes you underground through underground tunnels that were dug in order to allow secure access to the water that was located outside of the city walls.
As you get deeper into the tunnels, they split into two options – the dry tunnel and the wet tunnel.
I opted for the dry tunnel – if you go for the wet option, pre-prepare yourself with waterproof shoes and waders!
The Pool of Siloam
Our tour finished at the Pool of Siloam, the site of the ritual pool dated back to the Second Temple period and mentioned in the Bible:
John 9 11: “A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight”.
The Shiloah pool is at the bottom of the mount. Remember that what goes down must come back up! So if you want to return to the Visitors centre and the Old City walls, you will need to walk back up or take the shuttle.
For the City of David Website click here.
Looking for a place to stay in Jerusalem? I recommend the Dan Panorama Hotel.
If you are travelling in a budget, go for Abraham Hostel – it’s perfect for backpackers and extremely friendly.