Israel Trip: City of David
Originally, we had considered driving to Cesarea and Tel Aviv on Wednesday, but with the wedding the night before and us getting such a late start, we decided that there was plenty more we could (and wanted to) see in Jerusalem, rather than spending so much of the day driving.
We don't see much of anything TRULY ancient in the US, so it was especially exciting to see how cities and homes and streets from thousands and thousands of years ago have been uncovered.
The City of David tour is about a 2 hour walking tour through the archeological park, with the option of a longer hike through Hezekiah's tunnel in knee-deep water.
The City of David is where Jerusalem was born - the place where it all began.
Seeing sights like this ancient restroom is just pretty amazing. That sounds sarcastic, but really, it's not! I was truly enthralled with how we could stand and see mostly in-tact remains of a world that existed SO long ago.
We walked past portions of palaces and uncovered rooms made of stone, past Warren's Shaft (where the water system was created) and then arrived at a fork in the road.
Should we take Hezekiah's tunnel to Siloam's Pool?
Ben crept down and listened to the rushing water inside...
Eh...maybe we'll stick with the dry Canaanite tunnel instead.
Had we been a little more prepared, I think Ben and I would have been willing to do it. I've heard it's a REALLY cool experience. I couldn't help but think about our friends, the Justice's and how much they would have LOVED this hiking adventure.
But, to be fair...the shorter Canaanite tunnel was a perfect adventure for our group!
Getting down the dark steep stairs and through the narrow passageways was challenging enough for all of us. Grandma was thankful to have her cane with her while Ben, Chuck and I stepped carefully and called out warnings of steep stairs, wet floors, and uneven walkways while ready to catch any of Grandma or Grandpa's mis-steps!
But they did fine -- and I think they had fun. :) That's the biggest smile Grandma has given me for the camera yet this trip!
When we reached the end, we stopped for a break and a look at the map. Chuck, Ben and I were hoping to take the tunnel from Siloam's Pool under the streets and into the Old City, but we knew that would be a tough walk. We were all already pretty tired from all the hills, steps and climbing we'd already done.
Grandma's motto is usually "I can do it!" so it took some convincing for her to concede to letting us "kids" do the tunnel and meeting her and Grandpa on the other side of the city walls. But she agreed.
First though...we had to get to Siloam's Pool, which was no simple feat!
We walked along a ridge on the side of the mountain, and took in a beautiful view of some Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Over rocky terrain where we saw some possible large royal tombs in the mountain.
Then we walked down a slippery, steep hill of a street, until finally, we arrived at Siloam's Pool.
There was no water in sight, but we could see half of the stepped pool in front of us and rest a while before the next tunnel hike.
When we'd had a little break, we sent Grandma and Grandpa off in a taxi and the three of us headed into "The Stepped Road" and the Herodian Road.
These drawings were especially helpful to me, to visualize where we were and what we were seeing (and standing on). In fact, I just bought a cool book we saw in Israel called Israel Then & Now on Amazon that uses photographs and transparent overlays to show what the current view might have looked like in it's original glory.
We started the long hike through the dark and often short and narrow Herodian Road tunnel...
We didn't see another person the entire time we walked, which made the whole hike an even cooler memory -- kind of a special, private, tour that no one else knew about.
We continued until we ended up at the base of the Western Wall below the Temple Mount. WOW! To be at the Western Wall in what almost seemed like a "secret and secluded spot" was a very cool experience!
I think this video does a great job of describing the Herodian Road, telling where it is,
and you can kind of walk through it yourself too!
When we emerged from the tunnel, we ended up behind the Western Wall at this plaza, near the entrance of the Davidson Center - an archaeological museum.
Inside, we saw ancient artifacts from many different eras, as well as a model of the second temple. When we saw this coffin from the 1st century with a Hebrew inscription about it belonging to the son of a high priest, Uncle Chuck remarked that it was so amazing that the Hebrew letters on the coffin were the same alphabet and Hebrew language that they use now in Israel. No need for a translation when you can read modern Hebrew--it's the same!
After our long and exhausting walk through ancient Jerusalem and learning as much we could about the many eras of civilizations, we met back up with Grandma and Grandpa and headed back above-ground to current-day.
We decided to take one last "quick" walk through the Old City, since we wouldn't likely return again another day that week. We entered via the Western Wall:
On a Wednesday, the Western Wall is much less crowded than it was when we had been there on Monday during all the bar mitzvahs.
Ben was a few steps ahead of us, while Grandma and I were marveling at the velvety hat and coat this man was wearing. While I fussed with my camera bag to get a good long-zoom photo of him, I saw something funny...
The man and woman were talking to Ben and asking him (in Yiddish or Hebrew -- Ben wasn't sure) to take their photo in front of the Western Wall. Considering the formal dress and attire and customs these two must adhere to, we found it highly odd that they asked Ben (an obvious tourist, wearing shorts and a ball cap) to take their photo.
Regardless of the oddity of it, they seemed happy to commemorate their moment, and I'm certainly not one to keep anyone from documenting a memory!
While we were there, Uncle Chuck took Ben on a quick look around the corner of the men's side of the Wall.
Evidently there's a prayer room to the far left side of the wall where men gather to pray, facing the wall. Ben said he definitely felt like the only non-Jew in the room.
We left the Western Wall and walked through the Jewish Quarter, past the new synagogue, and back out of the main city walls through Zion Gate.
During the War of Independence in 1948, the Zion Gate was a major battleground in a fight between the Jewish and Arab forces. As a reminder of those events the Zion Gate is covered with bullet holes providing the visitors with a glimpse into how fierce the fight was for the ownership of Holy City.
Right near the Zion Gate, we walked around the corner to King David's Tomb -- a site I found to be a nearly empty and uninteresting prayer room on the women's side. However on the men's side, Ben, Grandpa and Chuck found a large and boisterous celebration dilled with songs, dancing, and welcoming Jews, encouaging Ben and Chuck to join them. Grandma and I came out confused and unaffected, while Ben found this spot to be one of the most intriguing places we visited.
While we were in the neighborhood (and even though we were all EXHAUSTED and ready to go find some dinner), we stopped at one more site -- the Upper Room inside the Cenacle, where the Last Supper was said to have taken place on Mount Zion.
The city of Jerusalem, Jews and Christians all over the world owe a lot of their history to King David. I guess a bronze statue IS in order. :)
We finally made it back to our car, and went in search of a relaxing dinner (bet you can't wait for that food-related post, huh?)
Israel Trip Wrap-Up:
- Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
- Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
- Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
- Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
- Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
- Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
- Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
- Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
- Israel Trip: City of David
- Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
- Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
- Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
- Israel Trip: The Food