In honor of Jerusalem Day, and after dealing with copious questions, theories and assumptions, we have decided to clear up the story of King David and Jerusalem once and for all.
King David, the victorious warrior who overpowers giants, plays the harp and conquered the city from the Jebusites – is a household name in Jerusalem. A short walk around the Old City shows us that in our little neighborhood alone there are at least three historical sites bearing the name of the Biblical King: the Tower of David Museum, the Tomb of David and the City of David. As a gesture of good will, we embarked on a mission to visit the sites, search through documents and biblical verses and to present you, through pictures and words, the special connection of each site to the most famous king of Jerusalem
A Comedy of Errors
Location: The Tower of David Museum, Jaffa Gate
The Citadel of the Tower of David Museum – Photo by Ricky Rachman
The museum is located in an ancient citadel that was built upon layers of history and served as a strategic defense point for thousands of years. The waves of conquests of the city brought an impressive gallery of leaders who left their mark on the citadel, among them King Herod, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent. But David, no, King David was not one of them.
Let’s begin at the end:
Although the citadel has been called the Tower of David for hundreds of years – there is no connection between it and King David. The mistaken identification began in the Byzantine period. Church fathers are credited with misinterpreting the historical writings of Josephus and attributing the tower of Phasael, built by King Herod, to King David. The Muslims, who conquered Jerusalem from the Church, built a mosque in the citadel and called it ‘Marhab Nebi-Daoud’, the prayer place of the Prophet David. In the 17th century the Ottomans added a tower above the mosque and this Turkish minaret became known as the Tower of David. During the 19th century, a wave of archeological and historical scholars came to Jerusalem in search of proof of the Bible. They, too, mistakenly identified the minaret as King David’s tower.
Be sure not to miss:
Almost thirty years ago, in 1989, the citadel complex was converted into a museum of the history of the city of Jerusalem, the Tower of David Museum. The museum tells the unique story of the city of Jerusalem in a captivating way for families, children, couples and everybody who loves Jerusalem.
Activities for families and children in the magical place where you can imagine the knights, Crusaders, queens and warriors who walked the walls of the citadel and its secret passages. Photo by Ricky Rachman
The magical view from the top of Phasael Tower at sunset that is worth every minute of driving up through the mountains of Jerusalem. Photo by: Ricky Rachman
The Night Spectacular – 3000 years of the history of the holiest city in the world presented in 45 minutes of music, pictures and lights. Photo: Tower of David Museum
Location: David’s Tomb, Zion Gate
The statue of King David at the tomb’s entrance – Photo by Ricky Rachman
In a small building on Mount Zion, according to Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition, King David is buried. But the actual historical connection to King David is uncertain.
In the Bible, the death of King David is described in the book of Kings (2:10): “And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.” References in the Book of Nehemiah and in the writings of Josephus indicate that the location of the tomb was known until the end of the Second Temple period. Mention of the tomb of David can be found in other books such as Nehemiah III, the New Testament, Roman history books and the Jerusalem Talmud. However, with the destruction of the city by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago, the tomb was probably destroyed, leaving no trace of the burial place of the first King of Israel in Jerusalem.
Although the Bible notes that David is buried in a cave in the southern part of the city, over time, an alternative tradition developed that sees Mount Zion as the place of rest for King David’s bones. From the end of the 1948 War of Independence until the 1967 Six Day War, East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control and access to the Western Wall was prohibited to Jews. David’s tomb then became a significant place where Jews could gather to worship and view the Temple Mount from a distance. Today, in order to visit King David’s Tomb, we can ascend to the top of Mount Zion, near the southern wall of the Old City.
An urban legend tells us that a few years ago a hole opened in an abandoned soccer field near the Dormition Church. The legend goes on to claim that the hole revealed a burial cave that is actually the true tomb of David. Today the hole is blocked, but a nearby stone is inscribed with the words: “Opening of the Cave of King David”. Many see the stone as a powerful charm and come to seek its blessings as they sit and read the book written by David – the Psalms.
Today the opening is blocked, but an inscribed stone can be found nearby. Photo – Tal
Be sure not to miss:
A Visit to the Room of the Last Supper on the second floor of the building. According to Christian belief, this is the room where Jesus shared a meal with his disciples before he was captured by the Romans and crucified. Photo – Ricky Rahman
The legend of the new location of the grave has spread and there are celebrations there on Saturday nights, and we hear that “those who pray there see salvation.” It never hurts to try. Photo-Tal
A Historical Layer Cake
Location: City of David, Dung Gate
The entrance to the Biblical city. Photo – Ricky Rachman
The City of David is located on a small hill southeast of the Old City basin, near the Dung Gate.
The City of David is like an historical layer cake. Over the course of one hundred and fifty years of excavation, tens of thousands of archaeological finds were found in the area of the hill, thousands of years old, among them a seal from the end of the First Temple period.
The only written information about the settlement of the City of David is in the Bible where it says that after King David conquered the city from the Jebusites, it became the capital of the United Israelite Kingdom. Many of David’s construction projects are described in the Bible which tells how the city flourished. In its glory days, the City of David and the Temple Mount spread over an area of approximately 130 dunams.
Today on that same hill you can find the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, the Jewish settlement of the “City of David” and the City of David National Park with a number of excavation sites. Unlike the Tower of David and David’s Tomb, many scholars claim that King David actually lived in the City of David about 3,000 years ago.
Be sure not to miss:
Warren’s Shaft – the underground water system that was the reservoir of the Gihon spring which flows down the eastern slope of the hill, into a fortified pool. Fun on hot days. Photo – City of David
The Meyuhas house and the burial caves of the House of David – to complete a visit to the Tomb of David on Mount Zion. Photo by Ricky Rachman
So let us conclude that King David may not have climbed the Jerusalem stone steps of the medieval citadel, and we are fairly certain that he did not rule over the people of Israel from the Turkish minaret. But one thing is certain, if King David was to come to Jerusalem today, he would not miss a visit to the sites bearing his name in the city and he would certainly go up to the observation point on the top of Phasael tower, point to the landscape painted in the colors of the sunset and bless the city with his own words:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces
For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say: ‘Peace be within thee
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good. (Psalm 122)