Written by Cory, an international student in the Israel Studies graduate program, class of 2015-2016.
In late December, Dr. Judith Bronstein and Dr. Estie Yankelevitch took our class to visit the “City of David”, an archaeological site of ancient Jerusalem dating back to the pre-Babylonian era. In 1974, the State of Israel declared the “City of David” to be a Jewish heritage site and it was made into a national park for tourism. In Dr. Judith Bronstein’s course, “Nationalism, Zionism, and Israeli Archaeology”, we are studying how archaeological sites and artifacts contribute to shaping national identity. The “City of David” is the place where the biblical King David conquered the city from the Jebusites in the year 1004 BCE and established Jerusalem as his capital.
This archaeological site, amongst many, confirms the historical ties that the Jewish people have to city of Jerusalem and to the land of Israel, but it is a highly contested area which is located in the predominately Arab neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. The archaeological excavations at the “City of David” are ongoing and new discoveries are constantly being made.
During our trip, we were accompanied by Shahar Shilo, an expert tour guide and researcher who has an incredible amount of knowledge regarding the historical site. From The Upper Observation Point (Beit Hatzofeh), we had an amazing view of various historical places throughout Jerusalem. We saw the southern wall of the Temple Mount, Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives, tombs from the city’s First Temple period cemetery, the Village of Silwan and the Necropolis, and the City of David.
We were shown the remains of the “Large Stone Structure”, which is believed to have once been King David’s Palace. This structure was discovered beneath ruins from the Byzantine and Second Temple period. We were also shown “The Royal Quarter (Area G)”, which was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE. We saw the remnants of Canaanite fortifications, which date back all the way to Middle Bronze age. These fortifications once enclosed the city and still extend down to the Gihon spring. The city has an underground water conduit named “Warren’s shaft” after the British explorer who discovered it. This underground water system was constructed at the end of the second millennium BCE, and it enabled Jerusalem’s citizens to draw water from the Gihon spring without having to leave the fortified walls of the city.
We walked through a Canaanite tunnel, but did not walk through “Hezekiah’s Tunnel”, which would have required us to get wet as it has an active spring of water dating back all the way to the days of King David. It is believed that these tunnels were used by King David’s soldiers to conquer the Jebusite city, which he then made into his royal capital. We were also shown the “Givati parking lot” excavation, which is believed to be the palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene. According to ancient Jewish and Roman texts, Queen Helena converted to Judaism in the First Century CE and then relocated her palace from her kingdom in modern-day Iraq to Jerusalem. We then ended our tour outside the walls of Temple Mount.