Tower of David
Built to strengthen a strategically weak point in the Old City's defenses, the citadel that stands today has ancient foundations and was constructed during the 2nd century BC and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt by, in succession, the Christian, Muslim, Mamluk, and Ottoman conquerors of Jerusalem. It contains important archaeological finds dating back 2,700 years, and is a popular venue for benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and sound-and-light performances.
The name "Tower of David" is due to Byzantine Christians who believed the site to be the palace of King David. They borrowed the name "Tower of David" from the Song of Songs, attributed to Solomon, King David's son, who wrote: "Thy neck is like the Tower of David built with turrets, whereon there hang a thousand shields, all the armor of the mighty men." (Song of Songs, 4:4)
During the 2nd century BC, the Old City of Jerusalem expanded onto the so-called Western Hill. This 773-meter-high prominence, which comprises the modern Armenian and Jewish Quarters as well as Mount Zion, was bounded by steep valleys on all sides except for its northwest corner. After King David and his son the legendary King Solomon initial fortifications, King Hezekiah may have been the first to specifically fortify this area. Centuries later, the Hasmonean kings surrounded the area with an impressive wall and large watchtowers, which historian Josephus Flavius (1st century BC) refers to as the First Wall.
Herod, who assumed power after the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty, added three massive towers to the fortifications in 37–34 BC. He built these at the vulnerable northwest corner of the Western Hill, where the Tower of David is now located. His purpose was not only to defend the city, but to safeguard his own royal palace located nearby on Mount Zion. Herod named the tallest of the towers, 145 feet in height, the Phasael in memory of his brother who had committed suicide. Another tower was called the Miriam, named for his second wife whom he had executed and buried in a cave to the west of the tower. He named the third tower the Hippicus after one of his friends. Of the three towers, only the Phasael still stands today.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, the site served as barracks for the Roman troops. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the imperial religion in the 4th century, a community of monks established itself in the citadel.
After the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 638, the new Muslim rulers refurbished the citadel. This powerful structure withstood the assault of the Crusaders in 1099, and surrendered only when its defenders were guaranteed safe passage out of the city.
During the Crusader period, thousands of pilgrims undertook the pilgrimage to Jerusalem by way of the port at Jaffa. To protect pilgrims from the menace of highway robbers, the Crusaders built a tower surrounded by a moat atop the citadel, and posted lookouts to guard the road to Jaffa. The citadel also served as the seat of the Crusader kings of Jerusalem.
In 1187, Sultan Saladin captured the city and the site. The Mamluks destroyed it in 1260 and later rebuilt it. The citadel was rebuilt yet again between 1537 and 1541 by the Ottomans, who designed a large entrance, behind which stood a cannon emplacement. For 400 years, the citadel served as a garrison for Turkish troops. The Ottomans also installed a mosque at the site and added the minaret, which still stands today. It was during this time that the complex began to be accepted as the "Tower of David", after the founder-king of Jerusalem.
During the period of the British Mandate (1917–1948), the British High Commissioner established the Pro-Jerusalem Society to protect the city's cultural heritage. This organization cleaned and renovated the citadel and reopened it to the public as a venue for concerts, benefit events and exhibitions by local artists. In the 1930s, a museum of Palestinian folklore was opened in the citadel, displaying traditional crafts and clothing.
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Arab Legion captured Jerusalem and converted the citadel back to its historical role as a military position, as it commanded a dominant view across the armistice line into Jewish Jerusalem. With the Israeli victory of 1967 after the Six-Day War, the citadel's cultural role was revived.
Tower of David Museum
The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem was opened in 1989 by the Jerusalem Foundation. Located in a series of chambers in the original citadel, the museum includes a courtyard which contains archeological ruins dating back 2,700 years.
The exhibits depict 4,000 years of Jerusalem's history, from its beginnings as a Canaanite city to modern times. Using maps, videotapes, holograms, drawings and models, the exhibit rooms each depict Jerusalem under its various rulers. Visitors may also ascend to the ramparts, which command a 360-degree view of the Old City and New City of Jerusalem.
As of 2002, the Jerusalem Foundation reported that over 3.5 million visitors had toured the museum.
- Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, The Holy Land, 22.
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