City of David – Of Kingdoms and Water – Part I

A tour of the City of David

Given by Jon C., written by Deena Levenstein

Go to part II

City of David tour_with_jon_cutler_december_2014_photo_credit_deena_levenstein_26
Entrance to City of David

Jon C., one of Touring Israel’s guides, took me on a half-day tour of the City of David, the area just south of the current Old City of Jerusalem where, around 3,000 years ago, it all began.

To make it clear, the glorious walls of the Old City of Jerusalem are fresh and new in Jerusalem terms, a mere 477 years old. Honestly – that’s barely a sneeze in the history of Jerusalem. The City of David, on the other hand, a place with archaeology pointing to thousands of years of history, is a couple minutes’ walk south of Dung Gate and it is there that one begins to find the ultimate treasures of ancient Jerusalem.

It was a cold and sunny winter’s day in December and it was a morning of storytelling – of King David’s conquest of what was then a Jebusite city, about how the Jebusites lived (how the women carried the water in jugs from the Gihon Spring), about the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah (fighting the Babylonians was a lost cause and Prophet Jeremiah said so), about King Hezekiah’s one last attempt, 2,700 years ago, to save his falling kingdom (it’s a miracle that they succeeded in creating a system to redirect the water into the walled city of the time) and more.

There’s nothing like a good view

We started the tour at one of the viewpoints of the City of David, one that affords a spectacular view of the Kidron Valley and east Jerusalem neighborhoods:

City of David _tour_with_jon_cutler_december_2014_photo_credit_deena_levenstein_3
Kidron Valley with a beautiful winter’s sky

The Old City to the north:

City of David _tour_with_jon_cutler_december_2014_photo_credit_deena_levenstein_6
The southern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem with a peak of Al Aqsa Mosque

And a view toward Zion Gate of the Old City:

City of David - Zion Gate is in the distance, not viewable in this photo.
Zion Gate is in the distance, not viewable in this photo.

And the Mount of Olives with the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world that goes back 2,900 years to King Solomon:

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Mount of Olives and the Old City eastern walls

And in a similar direction, more toward the Mount of Olives cemetery:

City of David The Mount of Olives - green from the winter rains
Mount of Olives

From this vantage point Jon gave me a recap of our national history starting with Abraham, 3,750 years ago, who took his son Isaac to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah which is said to be the Temple Mount. He mentioned the purchase King David made of that same mountain to be used for the temple (that only his son was destined to build) and jumping forward to modern day history, he explained that where we were standing was occupied by Jordan until 1967 while the area by Zion Gate, a place viewable from that point, was under Israeli rule.

More than just some rocks

We then walked down to stare at a pile of rocks:

City of David _tour_with_jon_cutler_december_2014_photo_credit_deena_levenstein_7
Jon and the rocks

This does indeed look like a simple pile of rocks, Jon began. But then in good archaeological fashion, he began to tell me the myriad of stories held within these rocks, stories spanning hundreds of years. He explained that this is actually a step stone structure and he told me why Eilat Mazar, one of the leading archaeologists of the site, believes that it was the foundation of King David’s palace.

He then explained why, on the other hand, it’s also possible to believe that this was a fortress during Jebusite and King David times.

He then went back to hand number one and explained why, even so, there is plenty of proof pointing to this, in fact, being the palace – for example the recent finding of an ionic pillar on site which would probably be from Lebanese builders is perfect proof that it’s the palace since, as I learned while staring at this fascinating structure, King David’s palace was contracted to Lebanese builders.

Jon showed me how the right side of this retaining palace wall or fortress wall is older, from King David and King Solomon’s time, and the left side is from the Second Temple period.

Sitting on a bench in the lovely winter sun Jon told me about other amazing findings of the area, including thousands of bullae. A bulla is a clay stamp that was used when sending letters. Some of them have names of people mentioned in the Bible in regards to the stories of King Hezekiah, 400 years after King David.

We then started heading down the hill toward an entrance into an intricate system of underground tunnels…

Stay tuned for “Of Kingdoms and Water – Part II”

In part two I’ll tell you about the underground water tunnels, the pools – natural and man-made – and how they connect to the stories of the kingdoms that came and went.

You’re welcome to email me questions.

Go to part II

All photos are by yours truly, Deena Levenstein.


Deena Levenstein

Deena Levenstein is a writer and social-cultural entrepreneur in Jerusalem. She creates and hosts events and runs "Things to do in Jerusalem," a Facebook group of handpicked cultural events in the city. In her spare time she blogs at

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