Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the world - as well as being one of the most significant to so many people and cultures. The city also boasts a range of tunnels. Some of these are ancient water supplies to the city, and others are to access the ruins of the old city that now lay buried under the modern city.
Still if one is planning to visit Israel, be careful to budget properly - Tel Aviv (the main city of the country) has recently been ranked as the most expensive country in the world. The region also boasts some of the oldest histories of cities anywhere in the world, the city of Jericho a short drive from Jerusalem is considered to be the oldest (and lowest) settlement on earth.
Hezekiah's Tunnel (also called Siloam Tunnel) is an ancient water tunnel carved under the ancient City of David (the oldest part of Jerusalem). Today it is located in an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem and is open to the public.
- Hezekiah: May Have Built The Tunnel
- Context: To Prepare For The Upcoming Assyrian Siege
It gets its name from the belief that it dates from the reign of Hezekiah of Judah (in the late 8th and early 7th century BC). Some believe that it is the "conduit" mentioned in the Second Book of Kings which was built as Jerusalem prepared for siege by the all-conquering Assyrians.
One of the most important parts of surviving any siege is to ensure a supply of fresh drinking water. In Second Chronicles it is recorded that he diverted the waters of upper Gihon and brought the water straight into the city (in so doing he also denied the spring to the Assyrians). The tunnel leads from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.
- Age: Perhaps From the Late 9th or Early 8th Century BC
The jury is still somewhat out whether the tunnel does indeed date from the right time or not. In 2011 excavation suggested that they may predate Hezekiah and date from the late 9th or early 8th century BC. That would mean it is truly ancient.
- Inscription: An Old Inscription Claims It Was Tunneled From Both Ends
The tunnel also bears an inscription stating that the tunnel was excavated by two teams with each starting at opposite ends and meeting up in the middle. Today one can see where the two teams met - the tunnels were just a little off from each other. How the ancients managed to accomplish this significant feat of engineering is still not fully understood.
The Western Wall Tunnel
Another tunnel in Jerusalem is the Western Wall Tunnel. While around 200 feet of the Western Wall remain above ground, around 1,601 feet have been buried and hidden underground.
In 19 BC, King Herod worked to double the area of the Temple Mount. To do that he built four retaining walls with mind-bending large stones and the Temple Mount was built on top of them. The Romans destroyed the temple i AD 70 and in the centuries since then much of the area next to the walls became covered over and built on.
The tunnel was built in the 1900s to excavate the Western Walls with the excavations lasting almost twenty years. In places, supports have had to be put in place to support the streets and buildings above.
There are plenty of tours listed on TripAdvisor that take visitors into the Western Wall Tunnel. It is advisable to take a tour guide to really understand the incredible history of the site.
Cisterns Under Jerusalem
In addition, there are a number of cisterns under the historic city and some of them are open to the public.
One cistern is the Struthion Pool located beneath the Convent of the Sisters of Zion which was also built by Herod the Great.
- Cisterns: Cisterns are still being Discovered In Jerusalem
Cisterns are still being discovered. In 2005 an ancient cistern was discovered under a neighborhood playground after it was found the sand was being swallowed up by the earth. The cistern was found to be 1,500 years old
Another even older one (around 3,000 years old) was discovered in the early 2000s and was the first cistern of its kind to be uncovered in Jerusalem. Today, visitors can already tour a part of the channel which is located near the Western Wall.