Day 30: Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Western Wall Tunnels
Today, we spent more time under the city than on top of it, which was really cool for a change. First, we went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel and then to the Western Wall’s Historical Tunnels. I knew that Jerusalem was an old city, but I never realized how much of it was just built on top of itself over and over again.
You couldn’t really see this in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It was just a narrow underground cave that connected a spring from outside of the city to inside the city. Because Jerusalem was under siege at the time of Hezekiah, they built this tunnel so the enemy could not block up their water supply to drive them out of the city.
How they built the tunnel was fascinating. They started on both ends to try to finish the tunnel faster. They would drive rods into the ground and beat them with a hammer to make vibrations, to which the people on the other side of the tunnel could hear and start to dig towards the noise. Until eventually the two tunnels met up. It was pretty cool to walk through ankle deep water all the way from outside of the city to inside the city.
While Hezekiah’s Tunnel only covered one era of time, the Western Walls Historic Tunnels covered pretty much all of them. We entered underground and the first thing we noticed was that there were two bridges, built at two different times, right next to each other. Yet, under these bridges were cisterns, rooms, and bathhouses, indicating that the bridges were used for so much more. Or maybe they were not and the bridges were built on top of the bath houses.
To make things more confusing, when the Crusaders came in, they discovered these tunnels and made small churches and hiding rooms in there. We had Herodian, Greek, Roman, Crusader, and Ottoman eras all in about a block from each other.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, there were two major archeologists who were excavating the tunnels (which could easily still be excavated for the next hundred years, the area is so massive) who disagreed on some major things. The leading archeologist (the one who started digging in the tunnels) was the one who gave us the tour and his theories. He kept telling us that where he believed this thing, the other archeologist (that replaced him) would argue with him and say this other thing. For example, they argued over one bride, whether it was constructed by Muslims or Romans. The leading archeologist thought the Muslims constructed it because it matches with the time and architecture of the region. If it was Muslim, then that means the Muslims thought the temple mount (which the bridge led to) was a holy place and needed access to it.
Theories like these led to him being replaced by another archeologist that was more favorable to the Israeli belief system. The temple mount could not be holy to the Muslems, only the Jews, so the state of Israel brought in another archeologist that was more sympathetic to their cause and said the bridge was Roman, even though they have very little evidence to suggest it was Roman.
Anyway, you can see how involved the Israeli government is with everything over here and how much of control they have over everything—even archeology, which is supposed to be a scientific endeavor. Even with the conflict and confusion, I still had a blast.
Following His Call,
2 Kings 20:20