Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Underneath the City of David

Continued from previous posts...
Location of the City of David
From the initial crossing of the Jordan river after the death of Moses, the Jews (then Israelites) gradually conquered city after city in the land of Israel. Despite the biblical imperative to appoint a king and build the holy temple in Jerusalem, the Jews doddled for a period of 400 years. During this period, the Jews would lapse into idolatry, only to be defeated and oppressed by one of the neighboring peoples, after which they would cry out to God. God would then inspire a prophet, who would come to rally the people, bring them back to Torah, and throw off the foreign oppressors. Only to have the cycle repeat itself time and time again. Finally, after the appointing and failure of King Shaul (Saul,) King David took power to unite the tribes.
Jerusalem, then called Jebu, was the home of the Jebusite tribe of Canaanites at the time. Despite the conquest of Giloh, Ramot, Givon and various other towns (today Jewish suburbs of greater Jerusalem which carry the same names,) Jebu had stood as a Canaanite stronghold for too long. King David had attempted to take the city frontally, but the Jebusites were so confident behind the cities defensive walls that they could taunt the besieging David, ""You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off -- thinking David cannot come in here."
Neither frontal assault nor siege worked, so it was time for plan C. The Gihon spring, outside the city walls, was drawn into the city by means of a network of underwater tunnels. David, with his best men, swam through the underwater tunnels, killed the guards on watch, and conquered the city from the inside.

Going down... down... down, into the tunnels under the City of David.
King David captured the city through these same tunnels.

Towards the end of his reign, David's eldest son Adinoyah, acting without the blessing of his father, with the help of a duplicitous Cohen (high priest) and support from David's own right-hand man Yoav, crowned himself the new King. Upon hearing of his son's treachery, David acted quickly, abdicating his throne to his son Shlomo (Solomon.) He took the young Shlomo, placed him on the royal donkey, and led him to the spring of Gihon to be annointed king, all to shouts of "Enduring Life for King Solomon." When the people's cries, echoing through the Kidron Valley, reached the ears of "King" Adinoyah and his camp, his men abandoned him and fled, fearing punishment for their treachery.

The new King Shlomo stayed Adinoyah's execution, but later, when Adinoyah married a widow of King David, apparently attempting to better his claim to the throne, King Shlomo sensed a plot and had him, along with the traitorous Cohen and Yoav, executed.

Looking down an ancient well in the excavated Gihon spring, where King Solomon was crowned.

Entire new caverns and roads from the ancient city have been discovered here in recent years, largely due to the archaeological salvage excavations triggered by Elad's building projects. Elad continues to fund most of the archaeology here, and new discoveries are constantly being unearthed.

One technique for building is to excavate shafts down to bedrock, then sink columns. The columns then support the building overhead as excavation and preservation work continues below. Several buildings have been constructed in the old city using similar techniques.

New excavations at the Gihon Spring. The new building is above, the excavations below, and we stand on a platform built to display the excavations.

Four centuries later, long after the split of the Kingdom of Shlomo into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the Assyrian King Sennacherib was on the move. Conquering one country after the next, he prevented rebellion from his new subjects by mixing them around, exiling them to other parts of his empire, unfamiliar settings. King Hezekiah of Judah saw as Sennacherib invaded the northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the ten tribes therein, who have been lost to history until today.

Hezekiah expected the Kingdom of Judah to be attacked next. In 701 BCE, in order to better withstand the coming siege, he had his engineers dig a tunnel stretching for a half kilometer to bring water from the Gihon Spring flowing into the city walls. Two teams assembled on either side and began digging blind, straight through the rock. The plan worked, and the steady water flow into the city saved Jerusalem and the southern tribes from Sennacherib's conquest. Water still flows through the tunnel today.

At the spring of Gihon. The entrance to Hezekiah's Tunnel is in the center of the photo.

We didn't get in the water and walk the length of the tunnel, though I've done it in the past. We did, however, walk through a different tunnel, now dry, which had been used for a similar purpose before King Hezekiah built his extended tunnel.

Me in the old dry tunnel.

Yours truly outside the tunnel, Silwan and some First Temple period burial caves behind me.

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