City of David & Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Probably the all-time favorite activity for children in Jerusalem is Hezekiah’s Tunnel located in the ancient City of David National Park. However, don’t be put off by the children tag; it is great for adults and there is plenty of real history to make it rate as a genuine grown up experience.

Extending from the ancient City of David (outside and down the hill from Dung Gate – near the Kotel) towards the Silwan Spring. The City of David is the site of King David’s ancient capital and sits outside the much newer (and still existing) Old City walls. The site itself has been extensively excavated and one gets the sense of being connected to something ancient and eternal. In many ways this is were the story of Jerusalem and Ancient Israel really begin.

City of David seems to be absolutely teeming with people at almost any time of the day or night – as befits an ancient capital city and royal palace.

David established his capital city here after succeeding King Saul and ruling from Hebron for 7 years. He reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years and established the Jewish Commonwealth and achieved the necessary political and religious stability to allow his son Solomon to build the Temple. See also Mount Zion for more details.

The excavations are fascinating and you get a real sense of the royal city; many of the findings can be linked to passages in the Bible. Well worth a visit even without the tunnel finale.

The main attraction is Hezekiah’s Water Tunnel, which is also known as Siloam Tunnel.

When Jerusalem was besieged by Sancherib and his Assyrian army (see Kings & Chronicles); Hezekiah decided to build the tunnel to bring water into the city to relieve the siege. Two teams worked on the project digging simultaneously from both ends and somehow or other managed to meet in the middle – an amazing piece of ancient engineering and we are rewarded with a 500-meter-long adventure. The story was recorded on a stone in the middle which is now actually in Istanbul.

You can now walk through the tunnel, and on a hot day the underground coolness and wading shin/knee high through water just can’t be beaten. As adventures go; the combination of history, as great story, unique coolness factor and the kick out of switching off the light in the middle of the tunnel is hard to beat anywhere. You are advised to bring closed shoes that can be soaked and torches (flash-lights).

The route is not passable to the infirm, push chairs and small children (even in back packs); although there is a shorter dry route that is more suitable for smaller children and babies in backpacks. Of course most children will be delighted if the parents split into shifts as it gives them chance to do the route twice. That is probably the preferred fun option as the dry route is really “dry” with its own charm as an historical underground tunnel but without the fun of the water tunnel. (Note that the routes are not parallel – you end up in different places and need to fix a meeting point.)

At the end you have the choice of a steep but interesting walk back up the hill through the excavations and the new village or catching the shuttle bus back up to the main site.

For full details see City of David

See also Nature Reserves

Getting to the City of David

By taxi – ask for Ir David

From the Kotel (or arrive at the Kotel by bus) – go out of Dung Gate and turn left down the hill and then take the right turn – the entrance is then on your left (it’s only a few minute’s walk).