Jerusalem’s narrative can literally be traced using the various foundation layers from several time periods. Ten different ancient civilizations have been identified, the earliest of which dates back nearly 4,000 years. These include the Canaanites, Israelites, Romans, Byzantines, Persians and early Muslims. It is like looking at the different rings of a tree stump or peeling away the layers of an onion, until you reach the bedrock, the heart – where it all began. Every layer is a different chapter in this narrative. These man-made layers have been formed over the course of over 3000 years, but they have only been uncovered, perhaps even “redeemed,” during the past 25 years. The City of David, ancient Jerusalem, has been rising from the ashes and shaking off chapters of dust. And she has slowly begun to reveal her secrets…
All the current excavations are done according to the highest standards by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Now for the first time, you can join us in her path to wholeness and well being.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee
The word “shalom” in its essence doesn’t mean peace. The actual meaning of shalom refers to a state of wholeness, balance and wellbeing on the deepest level of the soul. Directly translated from Hebrew this verse says: “Ask (or petition) for Jerusalem’s wholeness“. Join the Jerusalem Watch and turn word into deed. Become a tangible part of Jerusalem’s path to wholeness and wellbeing.
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Pilgrim's Ascent to Temple Mount
Build up, build up, prepare the road!
Remove the stones and obstacles out
of the way of My people
- Isaiah 57:14
Palace of the Davidic Dynasty
The City will be rebuilt on her ruins,
and the palace will stand in its proper place
- Jeremiah 30:18
The Gihon Spring gets its name from a Hebrew word meaning “to burst forth“. It was the main water source of the early Canaanite city, Jebus, which was conquered by King David. It is also the very spring where King Solomon and other kings of Israel were anointed (1 Kings 1:38 -39). The waters of the spring are also referred to by Isaiah as the living waters (Isaiah 12:3) and this spring played a key role in the water drawing ceremony that reached its peak on Hoshana Raba during the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Tradition tells us that this was one of the most joyous occasions of the year.
“A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the wadi that flowed through the land, saying, ‘Why should the Assyrian kings come and find water in abundance?’ (2 Chronicles 32:4) The fear that the abundant water flowing outside the city could be used by the Assyrian army gave King Hezekiah of Judah no rest. He therefore diverted the waters of the Gihon to a tunnel cut through the belly of the rock. Hezekiah’s tunnel diverted the water to the Shiloah Pool, built within the walls in the southern part of the city (2 Chronicles 32:30). The winding tunnel was hewn simultaneously from both ends for a length of approximately 533 meters. The height differential between the source of the spring and the end of the tunnel is a mere 30 centimeters (an average slope of 0.06 percent) – a truly amazing engineering feat. The Shiloah Inscription describing the dramatic meeting of the two groups of diggers, each digging toward one another one group from the Gihon Spring and the other from the Shiloah Pool, was found in the tunnel itself. It was discovered in 1880 by two boys who came upon it a few meters from the southern exit to the tunnel. “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kings 20:20)
“…The city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the fortress in its proper place.” (Jeremiah 30:18). Dr. Eilat Mazar started her excavation work in 2005 in search of the palace of King David. She based her theory that the most likely location of the citadel would be at the top of the hill, as well as a proto-Ionic capital, that was found by archeologist Kathleen Kenyon some 50 years prior. (You can view the capital below under Findings.) During the excavations, a massive stone structure was uncovered. Dr. Mazar also carbon-dated pottery found in the vicinity, which dated the finds to 1000 BCE, placing us exactly in the time of King David.
Ironically, also the seals of the very government officials who conspired against Jeremiah, Gedaliah son of Pashur and Yuchal son of Shelemiah, were also found during the excavations. (Jeremiah 38:1)
In 2004, a drainage pipe burst at the south slope of the City of David hill. What seemed to be just an inconvenience became the catalyst for a massive discovery of Biblical proportions. Knowing that it could be a potential archaeological sensitive site, archaeologists were checking in on the reparations. Archaeologist Eli Shukrun recalls hearing a bulldozer scraping against stone and after closer inspection they found a massive stepped stone structure. With a bit more probing, the remains of a magnificent pool from the late Second Temple period were uncovered here – the Shiloah Pool. A series of steps descended from four sides to the floor of the pool. The steps are overlaid with stone, and underneath them are the remains of an earlier pool dating from the Hasmonean era.
Second Temple sources mention the Shiloah Pool in regard to Temple ceremonies: “How was the water libation ceremony performed? He [the priest] would fill a golden flask holding three logs [a liquid measure] with water from the Shiloah…” (Mishnah Sukkah 4:9).The special stepped structure of the pool has led excavators to posit that pilgrims used it as a ritual bath to purify themselves before ascending to the Temple.
If the pilgrims indeed encamped around the Pool of Siloam during the pilgrimage festivals and used it as a ritual bath to purify themselves before entering the Temple, there must have been a road leading up from the Shiloah pool all the way to the Temple Mount. While probing the area for more clues, archaeologists found a wide stepped road paved with flat stone slabs, which led northward to the Temple Mount. The style of these steps curiously corresponded with the same pattern of the stairs leading up to the Huldah Gates on the southern side of the Temple Mount. The final ascent that millions of pilgrims made to Temple Mount was rediscovered. This very road is again being cleared of stones in current excavation work, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold: “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” (Isaiah 62:10)
The water drainage tunnel underneath this massive road was also excavated. It revealed a far more sad narrative than that of the happy festival days. Fully intact cooking pots were found. But meticulous breaks in the road at the lower end of the hill, as well as a Roman sword, were also sighted. The puzzle pieces fell in place when archaeologists turned to the book of Josephus Flavius, the only historian who described the siege of Jerusalem methodically in his book History of the Jewish War against the Romans. He describes the fate of the rebel refugees as follows: “For when all who showed themselves had been either slain or taken prisoner by the Romans, the victors instituted a search for those in the tunnels, and tearing up the ground, slew all whom they met; here too were found upwards of two thousand dead, of whom some had been destroyed by their own and some by one another’s hands, but a greater number by famine.”
In 2011, a small golden bell in the shape of a round ball was found during excavations of the rainwater drainage channel under the stepped road leading up to Temple Mount. It had a loop at the top, obviously to make it attachable to some piece of jewelry. Perhaps it was attached to the hem of the garment of a noble or important individual, as was customary at that time. Being that it was found very close to the foot of the Temple Mount on the road where the High Priest would have walked, especially during the water libation service of the Sukkot festival, archaeologists deduced that it might be one of the bells that adorned the hem of the garment of the High Priest himself. When Eli Shukrun, the overseeing archaeologist, shook the little ball, it rang like a bell. Research later revealed that it had a bell clapper inside. “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the LORD, so that he will not die…”(Ex 28:33-35)
Part of the dirt that was sifted during the excavations of the rain drainage tunnel revealed a rare seal that shed light on the Temple protocol during the Second Temple period. The small clay seal was baked, covered with paint and had a handle of some sort – almost like an ancient ticket or token, indicating that it was premeditated and made for a specific purpose. It had an Aramaic inscription spelling out: “Deka leyah” – “Pure for God.” A study of the Jewish sources revealed that such seals were used either for entering Temple or as a token to be able to receive ritually pure (drink) offerings. This small clay object opened up a portal to the past, giving us a small glimpse into Temple protocol.
One of the oldest and smallest silver scrolls in archaeological history was discovered in Jerusalem, containing 2,800-year old proof that validated biblical scripture. During excavations in 1979 in the Hinnom Valley, Dr. Gabriel Barkai and his team found a hidden chamber within one of the tombs that was replete with treasure. Among the artifacts were two purplish-colored objects that resembled cigarette butts. After further analysis, the archaeologists realized that it was a tiny, rolled up silver scroll. The scrolls were sent to some of the most experienced restoration professionals of ancient artifacts in the world. However, none of the experts wanted to attempt to open the brittle, millennia-old scrolls. The scrolls made their way home – untouched, and their content remained a secret.
In an act befitting the Israeli spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, technicians at the Israel Museum decided to attempt the procedure themselves. It took three intensive and challenging years of work for the scrolls to slowly share their content – an ancient Hebrew script etched into the silver. Extraordinarily, the tetragrammaton Name of God was also engraved on the scrolls. Once unrolled, the scroll measured 10cm long and 2.5cm wide, and was made of pure silver. Both scrolls contain the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 engraved on the silver in proto-Hebrew script.
The Lord will bless you and protect you.
The Lord will illuminate His face upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord will turn His face towards you and give you peace.
The scrolls are the oldest known examples of a Biblical text on an archaeological artifact and precede the Dead Sea Scrolls by approximately 400 years.
The Proto-Aeolic capital was found by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in a landslide, while she was digging at the site in the 1960s. It was one of the prime sources of motivation for archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar to excavate the northernmost part of the City of David in search of the palace of King David.. David had forged a strong alliance with Hiram the Phoenician, king of Tyre, who built him a new palace in Jerusalem. This capital was reminiscent of Phoenician style masonry of that time period (3000 B.C.E). “King Hiram of Tyre sent envoys to David, with cedar logs, carpenters and stonemasons; and they built a palace for David” (2 Samuel 5:11). In the massive stone structure that was indeed uncovered by Dr. Mazar, pieces of Lebanon cedar were also found among the excavations. Putting all the puzzle pieces together, it is widely accepted that this was one of the grandiose capitals that adorned the palace of King David.
What Lies Beneath
Only in the last 25 years through intensive ongoing excavations have we started to get a glimpse of the Ancient Jerusalem. Only 20% of Ancient Jerusalem has been excavated. Your support will not only allow us to do more, but also to speed up her process to wholeness and wellbeing.