Jerusalem Walls - City of David National Park

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One of the most important sites in the Jerusalem Walls National Park is the City of David (ancient Jerusalem).

the focus of formative events in the history of the people of Israel, some of which visitors to the site will discover in a fascinating voyage, above and beneath the ground.

 

Main points of interest in the City of David

  • Hezekiah's Tunnel (Siloam Tunnel, Shiloah Tunnel): "This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David" (2 Chronicles 32:30). Hezekiah's Tunnel is a long and winding  tunnel (533 m in length, and as the crow flies – 320 m), carved out in order to bring water from the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley outside the city walls into the Pool of Siloam within the walls of the city of David.
  • Pool of Siloam: An ancient pool at the point where the Gihon Spring flows into the city of David. Today, the water flows into a rectangular pool from the Byzantine period, but in the past it flowed into a larger pool that has been only partially uncovered in recent excavations.
  • Warren's Shaft: An ancient vertical shaft, 30 m in height, named after the British researcher Charles Warren who discovered it in 1867. For a long time, researchers assumed that the shaft was part of the ancient water system that gave the Canaanite residents of the city of Jebus access to the Gihon Spring in times of siege. Since the 1995 excavations, the accepted assumption is that the shaft was only made during the period of the Kingdom of Judah, and that the Canaanites drew water from a large pool excavated in the rock within the city's fortification walls.
  • The central drainage channel: Dug out of the belly of the Earth towards the end of the Second Temple period, from the area of the Western Wall in the north, to the ancient Pool of Siloam in the city of David. In recent years it has been cleaned, and today visitors can walk along its length to return from the Pool of Siloam to the entrance to the city of David (and even continue to the Davidson Center, for an additional fee).
  • Area G: The excavation area on the eastern slopes of the City of David, which was first excavated by the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in the 1960s, and later by archaeologist Yig'al Shilo. Magnificent buildings from the First Temple period were found in this area, apparently part of the government complex of that time. The main building in this complex is called the House of Ahiel (after a clay shard with the name Ahiel found in the building).
  • The Gihon Spring: The underlying factor in the development of ancient Jerusalem was the Gihon Spring, one of the largest and most abundant springs of the central mountain ridge. Thanks to this spring, there was human settlement here already in prehistoric times, which grew and increased from the Canaanite period and on. King Solomon was anointed by the waters of this spring, as it says in I Kings 1:38-39: "so they went down and had Solomon ride on King David's mule and brought him to Gihon; there Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!"
  • The Gihon Spring fortifications: In the archaeological excavations carried out in recent years a vast system of fortifications was uncovered, encompassing the Gihon Spring and protecting it against enemies, with a huge tower built of enormous rocks. The Gihon Spring fortifications have been dated to the Canaanite period (18th century BCE).
  • Jerusalem's ancient city walls: Within the area of the park, sections of Jerusalem's city walls from different periods can be seen, including walls from the Canaanite period and from the time of the Kingdom of Judah (8th century BCE).
  • The Ophel excavations: An area extending over the southern side of the Temple Mount, to the north of the city of David. Ancient stairs have been uncovered here for pilgrims to the Temple Mount (in front of the Hulda Gates), a system of fortifications from the First Temple period (according to the archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar), and Muslim palaces from the Umayyad period (7th – 8th century CE). Access to the site is through the Davidson Center Archaeology Park, and involves a separate entry fee.

Other sites in the area of the Jerusalem Walls National Park are the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna, a rock climbing site where the cyclamen that indicate the coming of the rains flower), the historic Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha'ananim neighborhoods, and more. The walls themselves and the Old City Walls promenade are not included in the area of the national park.

The Jerusalem Trail, connecting Jerusalem with the Israel Trail, passes through the park along the Kidron Stream and through the Hinnom Valley.

 

Geographic location

The national park surrounds the Old City of Jerusalem. The main area that has been arranged for visitors is the City of David, on the south side of the Old City near the Dung Gate (in the area that used to be the Giv'ati parking lot).

 

Lookout point

The upper observation point: An observation point at the entrance to the City of David, looking out over the Kidron Stream, the Silwan neighborhood, the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the southern wall excavations, and the Mount of Offense. In the south, the view is closed off by the Armon Hanatsiv ridge. From here, visitors can see that the City of David extension is surrounded on all sides by hills, as it says in Psalm 125: "As the mountains surround Jerusalem".

 

Identity card

The national park was declared in 1974, and serves as a green belt around the Old City. It is bordered on the east by the Kidron Stream, and its southern section includes the Hinnom Valley. To the west, the park is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sha'ananim, and by Mount Zion and its sites. These neighborhoods and sites include sacred places, settlement points, and the remains of the municipal line that divided Jerusalem between the War of Independence and the Six Day War. The northern border of the park runs by the line of the wall along Sultan Suleiman St.

 

Reasons for declaration

The park was established in order to serve as a green lung around the walls of the Old City, and is based on outline plans drawn up for the city during the period of the British Mandate (the Macklin plan of 1918, the Geddes plan of 1919, and the Geddes-Ashbee plan of 1922).

After the Six Day War, Israel tore down the concrete walls that had divided the city for 19 years, and the partly demolished houses that still stood along the length of the wall. In July 1967 Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, and the executive of the Nature and Parks Authority decided to surround the walls of the Old City with a national park, work on which continued for 15 years. The Jerusalem Walls National Park surrounds the Old City, and does not include the walls themselves.

 

Conservation activities of the Nature and Parks Authority

  • Archaeological excavations: Ongoing for many years, since the end of the Ottoman period, and continuing almost unbroken in recent decades with the encouragement of the Nature and Parks Authority.
  • The Hinnom Valley cliff, in the area of the park, has been arranged as a rock-climbing site.

 

Archaeology and history

The city walls, which are among the important cultural heritage assets of Jerusalem and a prominent monument in the urban landscape of the city in the past and present, were built in layers, expanded and renovated many times in the course of history, and represent the continuity of life in the city.

Today's wall has been standing for around 480 years, and even though it is the latest of the city walls, it follows the route of the walls that have encompassed the city since Roman times. The wall was built by Sultan Suleiman bin Salim (known as Suleiman the Magnificent) at the beginning of the 16th century, after the Ottoman Empire conquered the land of Israel. The wall was built to fortify and glorify the city, to bring back free trade to its markets, and to maintain its security. 

The wall was built between 1537 and 1541. The works manager was Muhammad Chalabi al-Nakkash, a high-ranking Ottoman official appointed to collect the taxes in Syria and in the land of Israel, and expert builders were brought in from Cairo and Aleppo.

The wall was built of local stone. It is 4,300 m long, between 2.5 and 3 m wide at the base and 1.5 m wide at the top, and it is between 5 and 15 m high, depending on the topography. There are 35 square towers, protruding out from the wall, and 344 embrasures and crenellations along the top. It also has 135 stone decorations, and 16 inscriptions.

Only a few changes have been made to the Ottoman wall: In 1889, a new gate was made in the wall, in 1898 an opening was made between the Jaffa Gate and the Tower of David Museum in honor of the visit by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and in 1909 a clock tower was built over the Jaffa Gate (made of stones quarried from Zedekiah's Cave — also called Solomon's Quarries) to celebrate 30 years of the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. 18 years later, it was removed by the British.

There are eight gates in the wall, four of which are main gates facing towards the four winds (Jaffa Gate, Nablus Gate, Golden Gate, and Zion Gate). The main gates of the city were built at an angle, to hamper entry by enemies, and the Jaffa Gate – other than 19 years when it was closed by the Jordanians – is the main gate for entry to the Old City, by vehicle and on foot. As mentioned, in 1889 another gate was made (the New Gate), at the request of Christian priests wanting easier access between the monasteries on either side of the wall in this area.

 

Geology and geomorphology

The city of David is bounded by fault lines passing to the south of the Old City and through the Hinnom Valley, and it is built on limestone rock of the Shivta formation. At the foot of the city of David, in the Hinnom valley and Kidron Stream, the bedrock is limestone and dolomite of the Vradim formation (in which the Gihon Spring rises). Above the Shivta formation, rock of the Netser formation (chalk, sand and marl) is revealed, and it is this that makes up the Temple Mount and the slopes of the Mount of Olives. These are the youngest of the formations of the Judea company, and to the east of them (the summit of the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Offense, and others) geological formations of the Mount Scopus company are revealed – the Menucha formation (chalk) and the Mashash formation (flint).

 

Hydrology

The Gihon Spring, rising on the banks of the Kidron Stream, is one of the few springs of the mountain ridge in the area of Jerusalem (most of the springs in the Judean hills rise on the margin of the impermeable marl deposit of the Motsa formation). This spring is one of the largest in the Judean Hills, with an average annual output of 600,000 m³.  Its name appears to relate to it being a pulsating spring, in other words, a spring whose waters spurt in regular pulses in a process in which underground cavities gradually fill up with water and then burst through the opening of the spring. Today, the spring does not pulsate, apparently because of the impact of urban development on its flow.

 

Flora

The park is in an urban area that has been densely built up for thousands of years, and as a result not many of the natural wild flower species remain. At the same time, it is worth mentioning the large concentration of squill (Drimia) flowering on the slopes of Mount Zion, while on the city walls and in the walls of old buildings there are cliff plants such as the common caper (Capparis spinosa), golden henbane (Hyoscyamus aureus), and the golden drop (Podonosma orientalis), as well as a foreign plant – the wall snapdragon (Antirrhinum siculum), which apparently arrived from Italy with the Crusaders. In recent years an invasive tree of Chinese origin has been establishing itself in the area, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which was planted in municipal parks in Jerusalem and has spread to the wild areas.

 

Wildlife

Since this is a crowded urban area, it does not contain a great diversity of wildlife.

How to get here:

The entrance to the City of David site next to the Dung Gate can be reached by public transport to the Western Wall, and from there a five-minute walk (following the signs).

People coming by car can park in the parking lots near the Old City (the Mount Zion parking lot, Mamilla parking lot), and walk from there to the site.

 

Length of visit:

  • Two hours without entry to Hezekiah's Tunnel.
  • Three hours for a full tour including Hezekiah's Tunnel.
  • Four hours including walking to the Davidson Center at the foot of the Western Wall.

Don't miss: : Hezekiah’s Tunnel, 3-D display

Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter.  Most of the walking sections at the site are underground.

Other attractions: Shop and kiosk – selling drinks, food, souvenirs, flashlights for the tunnel, and shoes for walking through water.

Recommended:  Bring a flashlight and shoes for walking in the water from home.

 

Opening hours

The ticket office closes two hours before the site closes (since the tour itself takes a minimum of two hours)

Winter: (until the end of March)

Sunday to Thursday:  8 am – 5 pm

Friday: 8 am – 2 pm

Summer:

Sunday to Thursday:  8 am – 7 pm

Friday:  8 am – 4 pm

 

* During August, Sunday to Thursday 8 am – 7 pm, Friday 8 am – 4 pm

The site is closed on Saturdays.

On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm

Contact us

To arrange entry and for explanations - *3639

To arrange a guide for groups - 08-6220835

Entrance fee 

Not including guided tour:
Adult: NIS 28; child: NIS 14
Senior citizen: NIS 14

Student: NIS 24

Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 23: child: NIS 13

Entrance to the 3-D display: NIS 13 

Entrance to dogs

 Permitted – on a leash and with a muzzle.


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    Jerusalem Walls - City of David National Park