We had a guided tour today of the ancient City of David. This is the original Jerusalem founded by King David 3000 years ago. This is one of those places where we do know exactly where it is and we can see the ruins. The Bible tells us that David captured the Jebusite city of Jerusalem by having his men infiltrate the city by entering a water shaft (2 Samuel 5:6-9). As part of our tour we got to descend into this exact water shaft. It was constructed over 3000 years ago by the Jebusites in order to provide access to the Gihon spring, the only natural water source for Jerusalem. It is an incredible feeling to be walking through a tunnel that you know was chiseled by hand 3000 years ago. Furthermore, you know that you can read all about it in the Bible. It was through this very tunnel that David’s men snuck into Jerusalem and captured the city. What a place!
In addition to the Jebusite tunnel there is also a tunnel created by King Hezekiah when the Persians were threatening to conquer Jerusalem in 701 BC (2 Chron 32:30). In order to prevent the invaders from finding the water source, King Hezekiah blocked up the original surface entrance which existed outside the city walls and created a tunnel 581 yards long to divert the water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. You can walk through this exact tunnel today and see it exactly as Hezekiah’s men chiseled it out. The interesting part about this tunnel is that the Gihon spring still runs and thus the tunnel is full of water at least to the knees. You can indeed walk through it, but you need a flashlight and you need to be ready to get wet. We weren’t prepared for this adventure today, but I think I’m going to go back with a group that wants to do it.
Again, some sites in the Bible you just don’t know if it’s the authentic spot, but there’s no doubt about this one. For a long time people claimed that David and his city didn’t exist, but just in the last century we have discovered the indisputable ruins. Today I was able to walk through 3000 year old tunnels and see the ruins of the palace of King David. It was just amazing! The City of David was actually very small compared even to the size of the Old City today. All of what was the City of David lies outside of the walls today but at one point was incorporated in the walled city.
I mentioned that Hezekiah’s tunnel led to the Pool of Siloam whose name may sound familiar. It was here that Jesus cured the blind man in the Gospel (John 9). The Byzantines built a church on the location that they believed to be the site of this pool. However, in 2004 archaeologists discovered a location further south that appears to be the actual pool. We were able to go there and see the work they are doing. It’s amazing to think that we are still uncovering new things thousands of years later.
Our final stop today was at the Western Wall Plaza. This area used to be known as the Wailing Wall and is the holiest place on earth for the Jews. The stones on the bottom of the wall date from the time of King Herod (1st century BC) and are the remains of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount. The temple itself (2nd temple) as well as the Temple Mount was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 and thus the Western Wall is the closest thing to the Temple that the Jews have. It is an important place of prayer today. You may remember that Pope John Paul II went there to pray when he made his pilgrimage. The Jews write their prayers on little pieces of paper and stick them in the wall, asking for God’s answer. I took the opportunity to offer my own prayer in this special place.