Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hezekiah's Tunnel

I actually went on this tour way back on June 7th but as usual I haven't really had time to type this up. I went on this tour with Christina and Annie they have both finished their studies at Rothberg. Some of the pictures are a little blurry because the light conditions aren't so great and my camera didn't always want to cooperate.

To refresh your memory the story of King Hezekiah is told in 2 Kings chapters 18, 19, and 20. King Hezekiah is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles chapters 29-32.

The Gihon spring was the only source of water for the ancient city. Sennacherib the King of Assyria was coming because Hezekiah had stopped paying his taxes and was in open rebellion. This was the Assyrian army that just a few years earlier had taken the northern kingdom of Israel and sent them into exile. That mighty army was coming for Jerusalem. You can imagine the fear this must have caused. They had some time to prepare. One thing you have to do is protect your water source otherwise the enemies could use it or foul it up so you can't use it. Hezekiah decided to hide the Gihon spring by having a tunnel dug to bring the water inside the city walls. The tunnel was made by two digging teams starting from opposite ends and they met in the middle.

The start of the tunnels tour actually starts in tunnels that were made before Hezekiah's tunnel. I think this one was Middle Bronze age but don't quote me on it. This is the staircase entrance to the water tunnels. What I don't like on this tour is all the staircases are see through. There is a huge drop underneath these stairs. When it was originally used there would have been wooden planks to use as stairs so when the city was under attack the planks would be removed so the invaders couldn't get into the city through the water supply.

This view is from the bottom of the stairs looking up. This shot didn't turn out quite so well but I wanted to include it so you could see the incline of the stairs.

Here is one section of the Middle Bronze tunnel. I think this part was actually a false start and they found the rock too hard to cut through. The lighting looks weird because of the setting I used on my camera.

These are iron buckets that have a very interesting story behind them. In the early 1900's there was an Englishman named Montague Parker who started to hold seances with his friends. They believed they were talking to the spirit of King Solomon who told them where his treasure was located. Parker raised lots of money and came to Jerusalem to start looking. Luckily he asked Father Vincent who was knowledgeable in archaeology for help. Father Vincent directed Parker to dig in areas that needed further exploration one area was the water tunnels. Montague Parker was digging in the water tunnels clearing out debris when part of the tunnel collapsed. No one was hurt but Parker's iron buckets and his glasses were buried and found by more recent excavators. Montague Parker was actually chased out of town on horseback by angry Muslims. Parker was caught excavating on the Temple Mount after dark, he is the only man known to have excavated there. Unfortunately the reports of what he found have been lost.

Now to the part you've been waiting for...Hezekiah's tunnel. These stairs lead down to the tunnel itself. Standing at this point you can hear the water rushing below. Hezekiah's tunnel still has water in it. I wore shorts and I still had to roll them up in order to not get wet. A flashlight and water shoes are necessary for this part. There are no artificial lights in Hezekiah's tunnel without the flashlight it's pitch black. It takes about 45 minutes to walk through the tunnel. In some places there is water dripping on you from the ceiling.

The entry to the tunnel you can see the rushing water at the bottom of the picture.  This is a good point to mention that the water is very cold because it's under ground. I would not recommend this trip in the winter.

This was taken a ways into the tunnel. I found it interesting that the ceiling height varied. Sometimes it was just a little above my head while other times the ceiling seemed to be about 12 feet above me. I don't know why the height varied so much.

Yours truly in the tunnel. This was the low ceiling section. Ironically I didn't feel claustrophobic in this tunnel maybe because I was prepared for it to be small. We arrived shortly after it opened so we were the only ones in the tunnel and I walked in front I guess that helped.

Another picture from inside the tunnel. As we were walking through I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the builders of the tunnel. They would only have candles available for light and they would have been working in a tight crawl space moving the rock debris out behind them. I imagine they would have worked day and night since the Assyrian army was coming for them. The workers would know that if they didn't finish the tunnel on time their city might be doomed. I imagine they were thinking about the fate of the northern kingdom of Israel that the Assyrians sent to exile. They likely worried that the same fate might be fall them.

I made it out of the tunnel. For years this was mistakenly identified as the pool of Siloam.

A few years ago archaeologist discover this...the real Pool of Siloam.  The waters are supposed to have healing powers...want to jump in?

1 comment:

  1. Wow what a tunnel tour. I'm assuming you knew most of Hezekial's tunnel was dark with above you knees cold water rushing through it. I can't imagine the level of fear and desperation while digging for an underground water supply using candles/torchs and buckets. They had no technology at the time to verify nor guarantee the two separate digging teams would meet up in the middle and connect to water. Your pictures give a good idea of how small. steep and dark this place is. I'm guessing no tour guide or safety measures like we'd have in the States? Don't know that I'd want to walk the Hezekial tunnel alone. Good blog, feels like I've been there.