FortRAess of Zion

The Biblical Fortress of Zion revealed in the city of David Following 18 years of excavation work, the "Canaanite Spring Citadel" is now open to visitors at the City of David, incorporating advanced technological innovations, taking the visitors 3,800 back in time. With the culmination of 18 years of archaeological excavations, defined as one of the most complex and unique projects ever conducted in Israel, a Canaanite fortress with gigantic dimensions has finally been exposed, dating back to the 18th century BCE. The fortress, excavated at the City of David National Park, was uncovered very slowly due to the fact that parallel to the painstaking work carried out by dozens of workers led by the Archeologist Eli Shukron and his colleague Professor Ronny Reich, the site continued to host hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. The Spring Citadel protects the biblical Gihon Spring with a huge fortification which isolates access to the spring, making it possible to reach the waters of the Gihon from the west only, from within the city. This is the largest fortress found in all of Israel to date between the Canaanite cities from the aforementioned period, and it seems that it is essentially the largest fortress found in Israel until the days of King Herod. According to the book of Samuel II, Chapter 5, King David conquered the “Fortress of Zion” from the hands of the Jebusite king. The extensive excavation raises a new understanding; it is possible that the verse is actually referring to this impressive fortress, which David’s warriors penetrated when entering to conquer Jerusalem from the Jebusites. The beginning of the book of Kings I describes the anointing of King Solomon “on the Gihon” by Nathan the prophet and Zadock the priest. This ceremony apparently took place right here, at the heart of the Spring Citadel, above the flowing Gihon Spring. The excavations on the hill of the biblical City of David were initiated by the British Palestine Exploration Fund, led by British Captain Charles Warren as early as 1867. However, the first excavator to penetrate to the depths of the Canaanite citadel, without being aware at the time, was a treasure hunter and romantic named Montague Parker, who energetically searched for the Holy Ark and King Solomon’s treasures between 1909 -1911, here at the heart of the gigantic Canaanite fortress in the City of David. The excavation led by Parker took place in complete secrecy, with Parker bribing the Turkish officers to allow him to dig at the site. In May 1911, the excavation was discovered by an alert guard who had not been included in the circle of bribe recipients. Parker was forced to run for his life and escaped to Cyprus in a yacht that awaited him at the Jaffa port. What remained of the tunnels that Parker and his team dug over 100 years ago can still be seen today at the top part of the citadel. Currently, the Spring Citadel has been given a new look and recently been opened to host visitors. The place offers interactive visit rich in visual effects that will take the visitor back to the biblical period for a few minutes, while introducing them to a wondrous and impressive archaeological achievement erected by the early Canaanites approximately 3,800 years ago. The visit to the Spring Citadel is part of the comprehensive tour of the biblical City of David. After the tour, visitors are invited to continue to enjoy an exciting walk illuminated by flashlights through the cool water of Hezekiah’s ancient water tunnel, or to choose the dry Canaanite canal that will lead them to the rest of the historic hike. Written by: Shahar Shilo - Historian, researcher and guide in Jerusalem.