Tuesday, February 26, 2013

City of David.

Ruins of an upper class residence at the City of David.

According to the map, the City of David sits outside the walled city.....makes sense.

It was about 9:30a. It didn't look like it would take more than 10 minutes to walk over to the City of David but I decided to just go ahead - better to be early than late and miss the tour.


















I followed the signs, entered my complex and made my way to ticket counter. The place was relatively empty; it was nice to be away from the hordes of tourists. I handed over my voucher and in exchange, the woman handed me a blue colored, paper wristband. She told me to just sit and wait in the area designated as the meeting place for tours. I took a spot on a wooden bench. The nice thing was it shaded.

The wooden planks, on one section of the floor, had been removed and replaced with glass.  Through the glass I could see some ruins....presuming they are old ruins from the ancient city.


Two men and a child also went up to the ticket counter and got blue wristbands. They would be on the same tour. From their accents, I could tell they were Americans.

As I waited, I took pictures of the town (?) on an adjacent hill.  My guess at the time was that it was a Palestinian settlement.




From the City of David,  I got one of the best views of the dome of Al-Aqsa.

Shortly after 10am, a young Israeli woman approached me and asked me if I was going on the tour. I replied, "Yes" and showed her my wristband. She said we had four more people to wait for. I figured those must have been the 2 men and the boy. They had disappeared into another building which I later found out from them was a changing room with lockers. The City of David tour that I signed up with includes a walk through the Hezekiah Tunnels which requires walking in water that can be at least two feet deep. A lot of people change into clothes for the walk and you're suppose to bring along shoes appropriate for walking in water (everyone but me had on Crocs) and a flashlight. I had my Keens for shoes which can go in water but I did not bring my hiking pants so I have my black jeans on instead. In this relatively arid weather, I figured they would dry in no time. I did bring along an extra pair of socks and shoes in case I needed to switch out.

Once the guys made it to the meeting spot, we did a round of intros. Our guide's name was Gail which I think is what she pronounced as "Gai-el". The older man was named Sandy and he's from Kansas City, Kansas. The younger man is his son Mark who has been living in Israel for the past eight years and the boy was Mark's son, Eli which I think is what Mark pronounced as *Ellie*.

Anyway, the four of us followed Gail to our first spot where she gave us a bit of history going back 10 centuries to the time of David and the founding of the city.


After her introduction, Gail led us inside a small theatre where we spent about 15 minutes watching a 3D movie about the City of David, how it was built and how it was eventually destroyed.

When the movie was over, we headed back outside and there were two people waiting there for us. They also joined out little group - an older woman named Merle who turned out to be spitfire and husband Steven (sp?) who also had a very quick wit. Gail continued her story about the City. She showed us where it would have stood relative to the layout of the land as it exists today.....with the Kidron Valley much higher in elevation than in David's day and the village of Silwan occupying the slopes of the neighboring hill.

The Kidron Valley is where the road is.

A lot of buildings crammed into a small hillside.

Looking down the Kidron Valley,

Looking at the buildings over at Silwan, it looked like the slums of Jerusalem. Up on the hills, she pointed out the Church of the Dormition.


Gail then led us down some steps that took us to our first set of ruins. Located under protective cover, these ruins are thought to possibly be those of David's palace.  This part was sheltered from the elements....basically underneath the entrance.  Excavations are still going on.





We then headed back outside to see a house belonging to a wealthy family. Evidence of their wealth came in the form of an indoor toilet which back in times of David would have required servants to clean.


We then had another view of Silwan. Gail pointed out the current day Muslim cemetery with its white headstones.

Rows and rows of plain, white headstones.

She then pointed to the square openings in the foundations of the first row of homes in Silwan. Those holes are ancient tombs, presumably empty today. 

Amazing to think that they basically having modern day homes atop ancient tombs!

Of course, the City of David existed because of the water served up by the Gihon Spring. What archeologists are continuing to excavate are the tunnels and shafts that the ancient citizens, the Jebusites,of the City of David built to channel water from the spring to reservoirs.



Gail took us to a display that explained Warren's Shaft which is named after the 19th century Englishman who discovered it.

As described in my DK Eyewitness Travel Guide titled, " Jerusalem Israel, Petra and Sinai":

"A sloping tunnel, reached by spiral stairs, leads to the vertical shaft at the bottom of which is a pool fed by the Gihon Spring. The system was built by the Jebusites to ensure a water supply during sieges. Nearby is their 18th century BC city wall, identified by the large, uncut stone blocks used in its construction. It was sited to bring the entrance to Warren's Shaft within the confines of the city.

In the face of Assyrian invasion in about 700 BC, King Hezekiah had a new tunnel built to bring the spring water right into the city, so concealing the source of the supply. Hezekiah's Tunnel ran 533 meters (1,750 feet) from the spring to a larger pool - the Pool of Siloam."
The tour I signed up for took us from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. Gail said that the walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel would take about 25 minutes and that the water would get deep only in the beginning. For the most part, it would be about ankle deep.

We first headed down Warren's Shaft. The first few steps were down metal slatted steps. Then it was down slippery rock. I had already put away my camera so my hands were free to help me balance. Even so, I was extremely walking down. Steve was ahead of me and he warned of the slippery areas.



We reached a wooden platform and another set of steps that took us down to the Gihon Spring, the starting point for our walk through the tunnel.



The black section in the photo is the Gihon Spring.

With our flashlights turned on, we made our way down into the tunnel. The water was chilly but not unbearably so. Shining my light down on it, I could also see that it was crystal clear. At one point, I could feel the ground sloping beneath my feet and before I knew it, the water was just a few inches shy of my crotch. A short distance later, it sloped back up and water was back to ankle height. The shaft of the tunnel was low and narrow. We all commented on how difficult to imagine the Jebusites hand chiseling out these tunnels! At one point, the roof of the tunnel was so low that even I had to duck to walk under it! Thank God for all those squats in the gym.

Gail had told us that it took two groups of Jebusites chiseling from opposite ends to create the tunnel. How they ever figured out where to meet to join the two tunnels to one is still a mystery.

Steps leading down into Hezekiah's Tunnel.

I have to admit, it was fun walking through the tunnel. Before we knew it, we could see daylight. I emerged with my pants and shoes soaking wet but I didn't care - they would eventually dry off. Siloam's Pool looked smaller than I had imagined.

Siloam's Pool.  I expected something a LOT larger.

Looking back at where we emerged from Hezekiah's Tunnel.

Before we ended our tour, Gail continued her story of the City of David by telling us of its destruction and the destruction of the 2nd Temple- that archeologists had uncovered ashes that have been carbon 14 dated to around the time the Temple is thought to have been destroyed by the Romans.

I have to say, Gail was a very knowledgeable guide. Oddly enough, you don't tip guides in Israel otherwise, I would have given her a good one.

Our walk had taken us quite a way down the hill from where we started. We had two options for getting back up hill. One was to walk and the other was to pay 5 shekels for a shuttle ride. I opted for the latter as did everyone else except for Merle and Steve. We all bid each other good bye. We spent just a short 2 1/2 hours together but we enjoyed each other's company.

While Merle and Steve made their way up the hill, the rest of us piled into the van. The driver dropped Gail off at the entrance to the City of David and then he took Sandy, Mark, Eli and I to Dung Gate.  My immediate plan was to head into the Jewish Quarter and visit the Wohl Archeological Museum.  It was just midday and I had a full afternoon yet ahead of me.

Having such fun here in this amazing city!