Hasmonean Water Tunnel – Armon HaNatziv – Jerusalem Tayelet

The Jerusalem Tayelet is one of the must do things in Jerusalem – it is a required photo-stop for the breath taking view of the New City of Jerusalem, The Old City of JerusalemThe Mount of Olives and the Judean Desert towards the Dead Sea. See the The Jerusalem Tayelet for more information.

Very close to the Jerusalem Tayelet runs the remains of a Hasmonean Water Tunnel. It is a small section of the “low aqueduct” which was constructed 2,200 years ago. It is thought that the Hasmoneans probably built it to deliver water to Jerusalem from the springs of Hebron, 20 kilometers south of Jerusalem!

This is a 400-meter stretch of tunnel that brought water from the Hebron Hills to the Temple. The water traveled 61 kilometers along a tortuous route built of aqueducts and tunnels and using gravity to drive the water towards Jerusalem. The water system was still in use in the early part of the twentieth century and the Hasmonean Tunnels themselves were remodeled by the Ottomans. The remains of some of their engineering can still be seen in the tunnel.

Since Jerusalem is just 30 meters lower than the water sources themselves, the aqueduct was meticulously planned and constructed to carry the water at an angle of one meter drop of water for ever one kilometer! The aqueduct is 423 meters long and has five ventilation shafts.

Into the tunnel

Walking through the tunnel requires light devices. The original height of the tunnels was five feet, but fortunately the Ottomans expanded the space, therefore not requiring people to crawl through the tunnel. The cement-covered ceramic pipes inside the tunnel were also built by the Ottomans. If there was an obstruction in a pipe, the Ottomans had to drill holes into it in order to clean it.

About a century ago, the Turks decided to cover the pipes with plaster and to insert new pipes from the aqueduct to the Dung Gate, the Temple Mount, and the Sultans Pool.

Other than the pipes, there are signs which tell you how far you’ve gone and how far you still have to go.

The tunnels are fun to walk into. As you exit the tunnel, you are rewarded with a great view of the Old City of Jerusalem – similar but still very different to the view from the top of the Tayelet.

If you plan to decide to choose a guided tour, here are some important notes to remember:

  • As of now, the tour is in Hebrew only.
  • The tour consists of walking through the ancient aqueduct, so they no longer carry water.
  • People who are claustrophobic, have limited mobility, or suffer other delicate health issues are discouraged from participating in the tour.
  • Flashlights are required. If you don’t carry your own, you can buy one from the site.
  • Some parts of the tunnel become narrow along the way.
  • One person may only enter the tunnel as a participant one one of the guided tours.
  • If you take babies with you, you can carry them in a front carry only.
  • One may not need to bring a stroller on the tour.
  • The meeting point is at the information booth at the Armon Hanatziv Haas Promenade.

If you want to make reservations in advance, you can contact the City of David visitors’ center at 02-6262341.