Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Return to the City of David

It's been nearly a year since I visited the City of David, the ancient city of Jeusalem where King David once ruled, and a lot has changed. The Elad organization is busy as a beaver, repurchasing Jewish-owned properties, excavating ancient ruins, and building new housing.

Yours truly on the observation point of the City of David.

The City of David is in an Area of Jerusalem that Barak tried to surrender to the Palestinian Authority back in 2000, before they kicked off the Second Intifadah, so Elad has to work as fast as possible, with the backing of generous anonymous donors, to continue moving Jews in and discovering more and more links between the Tanach (Jewish bible) and the city beneath our feet.

The visitor's center is built on "ground" level, although in this case that means on a platform suspended over the ruins now being excavated. The first change I notice is that we are now allowed to actually go down a staircase below the visitor's entrance area and see the excavations up-close.

Up-close excavations. In the background is Silwan, on the other side of the Kidron Valley.

My tour group.

We go deep into the caves and tunnels under the city. There wasn't much new here, but it's still fun to see.

As we come out, we see a new building being raised over the ruins. This will some day house several Jewish couples. The neighborhood is slowly being pushed towards a Jewish majority, and the waiting list for families to move in is long.

Walking over some of the ruins.

There are a couple of tubes hewn from the bedrock which were believed to be the tomb of King David, since the book of Samuel tells us that King David was buried within the city walls. However, there isn't really much archaeology to support this, and today most believe that these tubes were a store room of some sort.

Yours truly, in front of the tubes.

Children play on the ruins.

Here's one thing that is new. I remember my first walk through Hezekia's Tunnel, the tunnel bored through the rock by King Hezekiah to bring water from outside the ancient city walls, back in the summer of 2000. When one emerged from the cave inside where the City of David once stood, you came out at the pools of Shiloam, pictured below.

The Gemarrah (Talmud) goes into a discussion about who is obliged to go up to the Temple Mount to witness the sacrifices. There is an opinion that any male child of any age must go. Eventually the discussion reaches the conclusion that only a child with the ability to walk a reasonable distance must go. And what is that reasonable distance? From the pool of Shiloam at the bottom of the City of David up to the top of the city, where the Temple Mount was located. From this we knew from this discussion that the pools of Shiloam stood at the bottom of the city, and it was assumed that the current location of these pools was the right spot.

The location is controlled by the Wakf (Islamic Religious Trust,) as a mosque was erected on the spot, so visitors had the unpleasant experience of stepping out of Hezekia's tunnel to have ALLAHU ACHBAR! blasted into their ears. More disturbing, the Wakf has a policy of immediately destroying any archaeological relics they find under the land they control.

But a little over a year ago, a sewage pipe ruptured and had to be repaired. While the pipe was being replaced, a local archaeologist just happened to be walking by. He saw the exposed stones beneath and got an immediate halt to the repair job. After excavating, several rows of steps were discovered, and it is now believed that this is the corner of the original Pool of Shiloam, on a patch of land beyond the Wakf's control.

Steps leading down to the pool of shiloam. The suspect sewage pipe is suspended to the left to allow excavation to continue.

The excavations stop abruptly at the property line. Beyond them lies an orchard owned by the Greek Orthodox church. Perhaps someday they'll sell, and excavations can be completed.

Meanwhile, we have an artist's rendering of what the pools looked like.

One more section is also being excavated... the original path leading from the Pools of Shiloam to the Temple Mount.

It doesn't look like much now, but hopefully, over the years, the City of David will be developed further and further, until it looks like the Jewish Quarter within the current city walls, full of life, with Yeshivot, shops, tour groups, and restaurants. It's a long way off from what we see today, but at the rate Elad is moving, it may happen sooner than anyone thinks.

1 comment:

NormanF said...

The current anti-Jewish government wants to divide Jerusalem. Groups like Eldad have to do much of their work out of the public limelight. Only Jewish facts in the ground will make it impossible for the fools who run Israel's current government to do any appreciable damage. Even in a hostile environment, the Zionist ethos still lives on in the City Of David.