Archaeological site at the City of David in Jerusalem
(Royalty-free photo courtesy of The Israel Project; may be used free of charge
without attribution to The Israel Project)
Modern Israel is the renewal of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. Archaeological evidence shows that the Jewish people began developing its distinctive religion and culture some 4,000 years ago in Israel. For millennia, the Jewish people have had an unbroken physical presence—whether Israel existed as a sovereign state or under foreign domination.
As archaeology shows, Jerusalem is the religious and political focus of the Jewish people from the time King David, from the Tribe of Judah and the village of Bethlehem, made it his fortress and the capitol of a united Jewish nation called Israel around 1000 BCE (II Samuel 25:7).
Christians and Muslims also have religious freedom and access to key holy sites in Jerusalem, although none date longer than the continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
Experts agree that the Biblical history of David was written shortly after his reign and that it is “perhaps the oldest piece of historiography in the Western world.” The historical succession of kings and the archaeology of Jerusalem provide historical evidence for the Biblical narrative.
Archaeological evidence of Jews in Jerusalem
Recently, a Hebrew University archaeologist discovered a Jerusalem city wall from the time of King Solomon (10th century BCE), and said the finding “is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon’s building in Jerusalem.” Artifacts found inside excavations around the City of David and within the Old City, the Temple Mount and Solomon’s Stables date the Jewish presence in Jerusalem as far back as 1000 BCE, during the time of King David.
David established Jerusalem as an administrative, religious and military capital of a state which extended beyond Israelite and Judean settlements. He built what is now known as the City of David and brought what Jews consider to be the sacred Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The Ark held the tablets of the Ten Commandments and symbolized to Jews the presence of God. David’s placement of the Ark in his new capital gave the city a lasting religious and political significance for the Jewish nation.
After the Roman destruction of Judea in 70 CE, Jews were subject to exile, persecuted and massacred during subsequent foreign rule over Jerusalem. But still, the Jewish presence was constant in Jerusalem. Throughout the centuries, Jerusalem was not only an object of longing but also of actual Jewish habitation during the rule of the Romans (70 CE-324), the Byzantines (324-614), Persians (614-640), Arabs (640-1099), Crusaders (1099-1291), Mamluks (1291-1516) and the Ottoman Turks (1516-1918).
In the 19th century, Jews came to Jerusalem and worked as farmers, doctors and teachers on the outskirts of the city. A Jewish printing press was operating there by 1841, and a Jewish bank was established there in 1848. In 1845 – before the modern Zionist movement – the Prussian consul in Jerusalem estimated that the population of Jerusalem comprised about 7,120 Jews, 5,000 Muslims and 3,390 Christians. The New York Daily Tribune published an article in April 1854 by communist theorist Karl Marx stating that “the sedentary population of Jerusalem numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans [Muslims] and 8,000 Jews.”
By 1868, there were 21 synagogues, 21 convents and 11 mosques, according to an early guidebook to Jerusalem. After about 1860, there was a hospital and a library, as well as schools, hotels and other businesses. Jews comprised the most numerous builders of areas outside the walls of the city. In 1888, Yemenite Jews built and lived in an area in Silwan, now part of what is considered East Jerusalem. The Sultan of Turkey granted permission to a Jerusalemite Jew named Joseph Navon to build a railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1888. By the time Jerusalem was declared the capital of the State of Israel in 1949, it had had a substantial Jewish majority for many years.
League of Nations’ early recognition of Israel as national homeland for Jews
In 1922, the League of Nations Palestine Mandate recognized the land of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, citing “the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” The Mandate called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” and thus Jerusalem is a site of pilgrimage for the whole Jewish nation.
Ottoman Turkey renounced its previously claimed sovereignty rights over all of Palestine in 1923, after the Covenant of the League of Nations Mandates Commission was organized to decide to which country disputed territories would belong.
Although Jews were permitted to pray at the Western Wall until the end of Ottoman control, authorities had gone out of their way to create an onerous atmosphere: Jews were forbidden to bring Torah scrolls, chairs or screens used to separate men from women during prayer. Businesses emanating noxious odors were opened next to Jewish and Christian holy sites. Mosques were built with looming minarets over other houses of worship, and churches and Jewish holy sites could be decreed mosques. The restrictions continued as Britain based its policies on Arab claims that the Western Wall was part of the Temple Mount and thus was Muslim.
The League of Nations formally dissolved in April 1946. The United Nations, the League’s successor organization, preserved the rights of the Jewish people in Palestine and Jerusalem in particular when it passed Article 80 of the UN Charter.
The UN partition resolution of Nov. 29, 1947 recommended that Jerusalem be a separate entity, a suggestion the Palestinian leadership of 1947-48 rejected and which was rendered moot by the invasion of Arab armies into the newly declared State of Israel in 1948.
When the Israel Defense Forces broke the Arab armies’ siege of Jerusalem, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said Israel “can no longer regard the UN Resolution of the 29th of November as having any moral force. After the UN failed to implement its own resolution, we regard the resolution of the 29th of November concerning Jerusalem to be null and void.” Since then, no other entity or sovereign power has superseded the legal rights of the Jewish people acknowledged by the League of Nations Mandate.
Despite the fact that UN Secretary General Trygve Lie called Jordan’s 1948 invasion of Jerusalem an act of “aggression,” Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950. Only the United Kingdom and Pakistan recognized this action, and the UK clarified that its recognition of Jordanian sovereignty did not extend to Jerusalem.
Jordan’s mistreatment of Jerusalem, religious rights
Jordan failed to respect religious freedom in the parts of Jerusalem it controlled from 1948-1967 – a violation of Article 8 of the General Armistice Agreement signed on April 3, 1949. Further, the UN passed no resolutions protecting minority religious rights there.
During this period, Jordan denied Jews access to most of Judaism’s holy sites. The Jewish citizens of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem were expelled from their homes, and 58 synagogues were destroyed and/or desecrated; some were used as horse stables. The historic Hurva Synagogue and the Porat Yosef Yeshivah were decimated, and tombstones from ancient cemeteries on the Mount of Olives were used for paving stones, walls and latrines. Neither Jewish Israelis nor Jews who were citizens of other countries were permitted to visit the Western Wall. Jews were forbidden to go to the tombs of the prophet Samuel and Simon the Just, the tomb of Rachel or the burial site of the patriarchs in Hebron.
During Jordanian control, Muslim Israelis were not permitted to pray at the two Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount. Christian access to holy sites in East Jerusalem was available only on Christmas. Christian land purchases were limited, and Jordanian law infringed upon Christian educational institutions. From 1949-1967, the Christian population dropped from 25,000 to 11,000. Click here for more information about Christian sites in Jerusalem
Nascent Israeli state reunites Jerusalem, opens it up to all religions
After Israel’s defensive Six-Day War in 1967, Israel established all of Jerusalem as its capital and, based on history and legal precedent, extended Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration to East Jerusalem. New city boundaries, including strategic high points, were also approved. Palestinian Arabs of East Jerusalem had the right to apply for and receive Israeli citizenship but were not forced to do so or surrender their Jordanian passports.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967 did not call for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, nor did it mention Jerusalem. Instead, it called for a withdrawal to “secure and recognized boundaries.”
Jerusalem, a city holy to the three monotheistic religions, is the object of centuries of struggle and division. The demand for a special international status is unique to Jerusalem. No other city with important holy sites is subject to such a demand.
All the main holy sites for Jews lie within the post-1967 municipal borders of Jerusalem. Jews throughout the world pray toward the Temple Mount. In the Torah (Old Testament), Jerusalem is mentioned 656 times, and prayers for its safety and peace are repeated three times daily. It is the focus of prayer.
Since Israel unified Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government has not interfered with the administration of the Temple Mount and Muslim holy sites by the Jordanian-financed Waqf (Islamic trust) in East Jerusalem. Although Israel does not interfere with the day-to-day administration, religious observances or regulation of the Muslim holy sites, Israel has not surrendered its sovereignty of those places. Israel’s policy is that a united city under Israeli sovereignty will allow worshipers of all faiths unrestricted access to their holy places throughout the city. However, to protect Muslim sensitivities, Jewish and Christian prayer are barred on the Temple Mount. Because of previous incidents, Israel has a police presence on the Temple Mount.
Disagreements about Jerusalem borders
In the ensuing years, different parties have developed different concepts of Jerusalem’s borders and its geography; there is no single agreed-upon border. Some parties have even more than one idea of how the borders should be drawn. Palestinian Arabs speak not only about defying Israel’s 1967 annexation of the East Jerusalem municipality, but also against the Jordanian pre-1967 borders. Furthermore, these entities do not accept what Israel considers its city boundaries. Some of Jerusalem’s suburbs are built over the Green Line—and therefore could be considered by the Palestinian Arabs as West Bank settlements.
For Israel, on the other hand, these large suburbs are located in the larger metropolitan Jerusalem area, and the intertwined economic and social infrastructure of these suburbs support Jerusalem as a center. For Israelis, Jerusalem comprises the municipal borders established in 1967 after the Six-Day War, including pre-1967 West Jerusalem; East Jerusalem (including the Old City), previously Jordanian-controlled; as well as parts of the West Bank annexed to Jerusalem but not within formerly Jordanian Jerusalem.
Further complicating the situation is that Palestinians and Israelis depend on the same roads into and out of Jerusalem, and both consider the city a key communication nexus between north and south, just as King David did millennia ago. Facilities introduced by Israel for East Jerusalem and integrated within the city-wide systems include a sewer, drainage and piped water system; clinics, libraries, parks and gardens; a postal system; electricity; and unrestricted access to Israeli hospitals.
Biblical and Archaeological Evidence of the Jewish Presence in Jerusalem since 1000 BCE
The earliest permanent settlements, dating to the Early Bronze Age (third millennium BCE), were Canaanite. Several rectangular buildings with benches along their interior walls from that period are excavated.
A massive wall, some of which is exposed, was built around the city above the Kidron Valley as early as the 18th century BCE, the Middle Bronze Age.
Though Jerusalem is thought to have been an important Canaanite urban center, based on mention of the king of Jerusalem in a 14th century BCE archive found in Egypt, evidence from the Late Bronze Age (1600-1200 BCE) is rare. That archive referenced the defeat, not the conquest, of Adonitzedek, king of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is later mentioned as a Jebusite city (the Amorite and Jebusite peoples were part of what was known collectively as “Canaanites”) in Judges 19:10-12.
By the end of the 12th century BCE, the upper part of the city was terraced, and the citadel of the Canaanite-Jebusite city of Jerusalem had been built. The solid Jebusite defense wall which King David had to overcome to conquer Jerusalem was excavated in the 1960s.
King David chose Jerusalem as his capital because the city was not specifically tied to any of the 12 tribes. He conquered Jerusalem with royal forces, retaining it as royal property. As Jerusalem was the symbol of the united nation of Israel, David brought with him the Ark of the Covenant, making the city Israel’s political and religious center. He bought the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite and built an altar there (II Samuel 24:21-25). But because he was a warrior, David could not build the Temple, so he instead designated Solomon to do so when he became king.
The City of David
The Bible recounts that "David occupied the stronghold and renamed it the City of David; David also fortified the surrounding area, from the Millo inward" (II Samuel 5:9). The City of David is currently the site one of the most exciting archaeological finds of the ancient world. The archaeological exploration of the City of David, begun in the middle of the 19th century, continues to this day.
The City of David is the original hilltop upon which King David dedicated ancient Jerusalem as his capital 3,000 years ago. Located just south of the present-day walled Old City, the City of David was built on a hill of hard limestone, on a narrow ridge bordering the Kidron Valley. The Kidron Valley is filled with erosion and debris accumulated over the millennia. It is where the Gihon Spring, the city’s water source, is located. The Gihon Spring made the founding of the City of David possible and sustained its existence for thousands of years.
The Siloam Channel
The Siloam Channel, cut at the beginning of the second millennium BCE, emerges from the Gihon Spring and extends southward along the low, eastern slope of the City of David, around the city's southern end and empties into a reservoir in the Tyropoeon Valley. The channel's northern part is covered by large stones; the southern part is open, but becomes a rock-cut tunnel toward the end. Openings along the channel allowed water to flow out and irrigate the terraces on the eastern slope of the City of David.
Hezekiah's tunnel is the latest and most impressive of the water systems built in the City of David. Its systematic investigation was undertaken only in the last century. The Siloam Inscription, discovered in the tunnel at the end of the 19th century, was removed and is today in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
The tunnel was cut during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (end of the eighth century BCE) into the rock beneath the City of David, in an "S"-shaped course. The tunnel, finely carved, with visible chisel marks, is described in detail in a six-line inscription in paleo-Hebrew script, cut into the rock near the exit:
"…breakthrough and this was the account of the breakthrough. While the laborers were still working with their picks, each toward the other, and while there were still three cubits to be broken through, the voice of each was heard calling to the other, because there was a zdh [crack?] in the rock to the south and to the north. And at the moment of the breakthrough, the laborers struck each toward the other, pick against pick. Then the water flowed from the spring to the pool for 1,200 cubits. And the height of the rock above the heads of the laborers was 100 cubits."
The project is mentioned in the Bible in II Kings 20:20: "...and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city…," and again in II Chronicles 32:30: "This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David."
Hezekiah’s Tunnel is also open to visitors who may walk through the water that flows in it to the Pool of Siloam.
First Temple period
A most important discovery at the City of David is the massive Stepped Stone Structure, a unique 12 story-high foundational structure and the largest Iron Age construction in Israel, which may have been used to buttress David’s palace. The structure dates to the time of the United Monarchy but the substructure and core was originally built as early at the end of the 13th century BCE.
The late Professor Yigal Shiloh headed the City of David excavation from 1978 – 1985, discovering and excavating ruins mainly from the First Temple period. He studied the stone-stepped structure which probably supported the fortress for David and the kings of Judah. The milloh (from Hebrew: to fill) that David built, were earth and stone areas built between stone walls, forming the terraces upon which houses of the fortress-city were built.
Toward the end of the First Temple period, dwellings were built within and upon the stone foundation. These were destroyed when the Babylonians captured and razed Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Archaeological evidence found on the eastern slope of the City of David of the Babylonian destruction of 587-6 BCE, illuminates the Biblical descriptions of the destruction of Jerusalem (II Kings 25:8-10; Jeremiah 39:8; II Chronicles 36:18-19).
The eastern area of the City of David has yielded a valuable collection of bullae (seal impressions made of clay). The seals were apparently used by officials of the kingdom. The bullae from the City of David, uncovered in controlled excavation in clear stratigraphic context and supported by historical evidence, are one of the most important discoveries ever made in Jerusalem.
Recent archaeological proof shows Jewish beginnings of Temple Mount area
No single archaeological relic of the First Temple or Solomon’s Temple has yet been found. However, on Feb. 22, 2010, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced the discovery in Jerusalem of a section of the city wall dating from the 10th century BCE which may have been built by King Solomon. The section is located in the “Ophel” area between the City of David and the Temple Mount’s southern wall and further attests to the Jewish beginnings of the area.
Said Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar, “The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence. Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering…A comparison of this latest finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate with a great degree of assurance that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century BCE.”
“This is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon’s building in Jerusalem,” Mazar added. “The Bible tells us that Solomon built -- with the assistance of the Phoenicians, who were outstanding builders -- the Temple and his new palace and surrounded them with a city, most probably connected to the more ancient wall of the City of David.” Mazar specifically cites the third chapter of I Kings which refers to the structure: “until he (Solomon) had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.”
Pottery shards discovered in the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also corroborate that the complex’s dating to the 10th century BCE. Large storage jars that survived destruction by fire were found. A partial inscription in ancient Hebrew on one jar indicates it belonged to a high-level government official.
Jar handles with seal impressions “to the king,” testifying to their usage within the monarchy, were found. Seal impressions with Hebrew names, also indicating the royal nature of the structure, were found as well.
More ancient treasure discovered among rubble dating back to First, Second Temple periods
In April 2005, a series of relics dating back to the periods of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were found in piles of rubble which had been discarded at a garbage dump in the Kidron Valley by the Islamic Waqf authorities. As excavation has not been possible on the Temple Mount because the Waqf will not permit it, these discoveries are the first of their kind. The former head of the Israeli Antiquities Authority called the removal and dumping of these artifacts "an unprecedented archaeological crime."
Archaeologists at the site discovered some pottery dating to the Bronze Age and First Temple periods and more than 100 ancient coins, including some from the Hasmonean dynasty. One coin from the period of the First Revolt against the Romans reads "For the Freedom of Zion" and was created before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The so-called Antiochus coin was discovered in December 2008 in the rubble from the Temple Mount. This coin was minted by, and bears a portrait of, the Greek leader Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who ruled from 175 – 163 BCE. During that time, Antiochus looted the Temple of its treasures and erected a statue in the sanctuary. The Hasmonean rebellion was directed against his actions. The rebellion – the Hasmoneans' liberation of the Temple – and the events surrounding the Chanukah story took place on the Temple Mount.
Building remains from the First Temple Period (8th-9th centuries BCE) were found in the northwest part of the Western Wall plaza near the Temple Mount in 2008. Finds included a colonnaded street from the Late Roman period (2nd century CE) that appear on the Madaba Map mosaic and is called the Eastern Cardo. The 6th century CE Madaba Map, is the oldest surviving original map of Israel and especially Jerusalem. A replica is in the Eastern Cardo today. The Cardo is paved with heavy limestone blocks set atop a layer dating to the end of the First Temple period. The Roman road pavers had covered the earlier finds and prevented them from discovery. This was the first time that building remains from the First Temple period were exposed so close to the Temple Mount.
Additionally, a scarab-like elliptical seal that was probably inlaid in a ring was found there. The name of the owner of the seal is engraved in ancient Hebrew script; it translates as “[belonging] to Netanyahu ben Yaush.” This was the first time that these names were mentioned together, although both are Biblical names. Netanyahu ben Yaush is mentioned a number of times in the Book of Jeremiah and in Chronicles, and the name Yaush appeared in the Lachish letters. Lachish was the most important city in Judah after Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign. It was destroyed in 701 B.C.E. by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib on his way to laying siege to Jerusalem. Also, an inscription written in ancient Hebrew script was preserved on a jar handle which reads, “[belonging] to the king of Hebron.”
Different kinds of coins were uncovered in numerous excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount – some more ancient than 2,000 years old. Some are unique coins that were minted in Jerusalem during this period and burned during the Great Revolt by the Jews (in which the Second Temple was destroyed). A very rare shekel, minted by the rebels during the last months of the revolt in 70 CE, was also uncovered.
Excavators also discovered a fragment of a large sarcophagus lid, engraved with the words in square script characteristic of the Second Temple period reading “…Ben HaCohen HaGadol…” (son of the High Priest).
These artifacts as well as others found there were characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah in the latter part of the First Temple period—the end of the eighth century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE.
A massive retaining structure for a monumental building from the 10th century BCE was probably part of King David’s residence (II Samuel 5:7-9), the Fortress of Zion.
Jerusalem expanded in the 8th century BCE during the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, as the hill west of the City of David was also within the walls. There is evidence that the city was densely populated. The populated areas seem to have been abandoned during the Assyrian siege of 701 BCE described in the Biblical narrative (II Kings 18-19 and II Chronicles 32-5). When the Assyrian army approached, the king decided to fortify the city and wall in the newly built areas. The city’s eastern wall was integrated and – in some places – incorporated with the course of its Bronze Age predecessor. The King had houses that stood along the wall’s route demolished and their stones used to reinforce the wall. According to Isaiah (22:9-10): "And you took note of the many breaches in the City of David... and you counted the houses of Jerusalem and pulled houses down to fortify the wall."
During the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, Jerusalem enjoyed a period of prosperity, as shown by the remains of structures such as the four-roomed Israelite dwelling typical of this period, called the House of Ahi’el, which was excavated on the northeastern slope of the City of David. The house was named after the Hebrew inscription on a pottery fragment found in it. The dwelling not only had an external stone staircase leading to a second story, but also a small storage room where more than 50 restorable jars were found. Moreover, in another small room excavators found a limestone toilet seat embedded in the plaster floor, beneath which was a cesspit.
Large trove of clay seal impressions in Hebrew
East of the House of Ahi’el is the Bullae House, where a collection of almost 50 clay seal impressions (bullae) with Hebrew lettering was found. The bullae date to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587-6 BCE. Made of fingernail-sized lumps of soft clay flattened into disks, the bullae were stuck to strings binding papyrus documents and then stamped with a seal. The bulla seal had to be broken in order to separate it from the string so the scroll could be opened. The fire that destroyed the house and burnt the documents stored in it also fired the bullae, thus preserving their legibility.
The bullae are stamped with dozens of Hebrew personal names, some of which are Biblical: For example, Gemaryahu son of Shafan, a high official at the court of King Jehoiakim of Judah who reigned on the eve of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 36:10; see also 11-12, 25); Azaryahu son of Hilkiyahu, a member of the family of high priests who officiated at the end of the First Temple period (I Chronicles 9:10); Gedaliah ben Pashur whose name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1); and Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu, whose name was found on an identical clay bulla in the same area in 2005. The last two men were ministers in King Zedekiah’s court; King Zedekiah was the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the First Temple’s destruction.
These last bullae are well preserved and were written in ancient Hebrew. They were found among the debris of the destruction of the First Temple period (eighth-sixth centuries BCE). Their discovery was the first time in Israeli archaeology that two clay bullae with two Biblical names appearing in the same Biblical verse were unearthed in the same location. The fact that these two bullae were found on the site indicates that the king’s administration may have used the building in which they were found until the destruction of the First Temple.
“And Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashchur, and Yehuchal the son of Shelamayahu, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah spoke unto all the people…” (Jeremiah 38:1).
Yehuchal the son of Shelamayahu and Gedaliah the son of Pashchur were both ministers of King Zedekiah (a descendant of King David and the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple). They unsuccessfully plotted to kill the prophet Jeremiah by throwing him into a pit. Pashchur, Gedaliah’s father, may have been the deputy chief priest of the temple who “smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, which was in the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 20:3).
Additionally, a seal made of bone and engraved with the name “Shaul” was found in May 2009 in the City of David excavation. The seal owner’s name is completely preserved and written in the shortened form of the name, "Shaul," which is known from both the Bible (Genesis 36:37; I Samuel 9:2; I Chronicles 4:24 and 6:9) and from other Hebrew seals.
Jews exiled to Babylon returned during the Persian period (sixth century BCE). Nehemiah later built a new wall atop the northeastern slope of the City of David.
Second Temple period
Hasmonean rulers later restored the First Wall, built by King Hezekiah and damaged in 587-6 BCE when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.
The Citadel of Jerusalem, known as the “Tower of David,” was rebuilt with a thick wall and two large towers. Located on the western side of the Old City, just south of the Jaffa Gate, it lies on the highest point of Jerusalem. The remains of Jerusalem’s fortifications from the end of the eighth century BCE dating from Hezekiah, king of Judah are in the Citadel’s foundations.
An ancient quarry, dating to the end of the Second Temple period (c. 2,030 years old), was recently uncovered in excavations in Jerusalem on Shmuel HaNavi Street.
Dr. Ofer Sion, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, believes that “the immense size of the stones (maximum dimensions: length 3 m, width 2 m, height 2 m) indicates it was highly likely that the large stones that were quarried at the site were destined for use in the construction of Herod’s magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple walls....
“The dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry that was revealed are suitable for the Temple walls... Today, with the exposure of this quarry, the intensity of the building projects as described in the historical sources can be proven: Flavius Josephus wrote that before Herod built the Temple he prepared the infrastructure for it: the quarrying of the Temple’s stones lasted eight whole years. The Temple itself was built in a relatively short period of time of two years. With the exposure of the quarries in Sanhedria and Ramat Shlomo, it is clear that Herod began quarrying closest to the Temple and worked away from it: first he exploited the stone on the nearby ridges and subsequently he moved on to quarry in more distant regions.”
At the end of the first century BCE, King Herod strengthened the fortifications of the Citadel and added three huge towers to the First Wall—all of which is described in Josephus Flavius’s history. One of the towers, the Tower of David, has survived and is incorporated into the fortifications on the eastern side of the Citadel. Even as far back as the first century BCE, ancient historian Josephus Flavius referred to the southwestern hill as the “Citadel of King David” (War V, 3,1). The Tower of David is an important example of Second Temple period royal construction. The destruction of Jerusalem in the first century is reflected in the thick layer of debris, including charred wooden roofing beams uncovered in another part of the Citadel. In the Citadel’s courtyard remains of the First Wall, its towers, and towers of the Second Temple period are exhibited.
In December 2007, ruins were uncovered in the City of David which are thought to be from the Second Temple period, belonging to the family of Queen Helena of Adiabene. According to the writings of Josephus Flavius, the edifice was probably built by the Hadyab family, which includes Queen Helena of Adiabene who converted to Judaism, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was buried there. The excavation of the ruins yielded pottery, stone vessels and coins dating to the Second Temple period. The latest coin dates to the end of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 69-70 CE. The remains strewn across the basement’s destruction layer and the narrow openings from which people tried to flee, demonstrate the building was destroyed during the Roman conquest. A silver half-shekel coin was the First Temple and says "Half-Shekel."
Excavations carried out in 1979 at the Hinnom Flank exposed nine burial caves. Extending from the three sides of each cave are "shelves" on which dead bodies were placed. In some of the caves, secondary burial bone vaults were dug beneath the shelves. The many items found in these vault-like areas – including vessels, arrowheads, jewelry, a perfume bowl and others – provide evidence about Jerusalem life during the Kingdom of Judah.
However, the most exciting find at the Hinnom Flank was undoubtedly two minuscule silver scrolls containing the earliest known version of Birkat Hakohanim — the Priestly Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26): "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace.” This is the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were from the period just before Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and the subsequent exile of the Israelites in Babylonia.
According to researchers at the University of Southern California the scrolls "preserve the earliest known citations of texts also found in the Hebrew Bible and that they provide us with the earliest examples of confessional statements concerning Yahweh [God]."
Another discovery from the end of the Second Temple period was of a ritual bath (mikveh) discovered inside a structure located very near the Western Wall. It is one of the most magnificent structures from the Second Temple period ever uncovered. From an architectural and artistic standpoint, similarities between this structure and the three other magnificent Herodian compounds including at the Temple Mount, at the Cave of the Patriarchs and at Allonei Mamre, demonstrate the building’s great significance in the Second Temple period.
According to archaeologist Alexander Onn, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Immersing oneself in the mikveh and maintaining ritual purity were an inseparable part of the Jewish way of life in this period, and mikve’ot were absolutely essential, especially in the region of the Temple.”
Burial sites and tombs of the First and Second Temple periods
There are many burial sites and tombs dating from the Second Temple period (second century BCE - first century CE) in Jerusalem, hundreds of which were built in areas around the city mainly on the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.
Burial caves were used by the same family for generations. The bones of the deceased were collected for secondary burial, a tradition based on the Jewish belief of the resurrection of the dead when the Messiah comes.
Following are examples of burial sites and tombs from the First and Second Temple periods:
1.Yad Avshalom (the monument to Absalom, traditionally ascribed to the rebellious son of King David), is the most complete funerary monument dating to the Second Temple period. The adjacent cave is that of King Jehoshaphat of Judah which has eight burial chambers.
2.The Tomb of Zechariah is the burial site of, by tradition, the Prophet Zechariah or, by another tradition, the father of John the Baptist.
3.The Tomb of Benei Hezir has a long Hebrew inscription carved above the columns, identifying it as the tomb of several members of the (Jewish) Hezir family who had served as priests in the Temple and were buried in the tomb below. The name appears in the Priestly Roster of the First Temple: “...the seventeenth to Hezir” (I Chronicles 24:15), and again among the Second Temple priests (Nehemiah 10:20).
4.The Tomb of Queen Helene of Adiabene is the largest tomb in Jerusalem. The tomb is ascribed to Helene, Queen of Adiabene (in the north of modern Iraq), who converted to Judaism in the first century CE at a palace in Jerusalem. According to Josephus Flavius (Antiquities of the Jews 20: 95; The Jewish War 5: 55, 119, 147), she died in Adiabene but her remains and those of some family members were transferred for burial to the family mausoleum she built.
5.The Tomb of Jason is located in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood.
6.The Tombs of the Sanhedrin are in the neighborhood still called Sanhedria. The large burial cave has roughly the number of burial niches as the number of the members of the Sanhedrin (120).
7.The Funerary Inscription of King Uzziah was discovered in the Russian Convent on the Mount of Olives. There is no record of its original provenance. The Aramaic inscription and the script’s style, dated to the latter part of the Second Temple period, tells of the reburial of the remains of Uzziah, king of Judah (769 - 733 BCE):
"Hither were brought
the bones of Uzziah
King of Judah
and do not open"
The Bible not only recounts King Uzziah's deeds and conquests, it also describes his burial: “Uzziah rested with his fathers in the burial field of the kings, because, they said, he is a leper” (II Chronicles 26:3).
8.The Tomb of Simon the Temple Builder contained an ossuary bearing an Aramaic inscription reading, "Simon the Temple Builder." The ossuary presumably contains the remains of a man who participated in the building of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, an experience that was a source for pride.
Two heel bones pierced by a large iron nail, indicating crucifixion were found in another ossuary there.
9.The Tomb of Abba contains an Aramaic inscription in ancient Hebrew letters (very unusual in the Second Temple period) which reads:
“I, Abba, son of the priest
Eleaz(ar), son of Aaron the high (priest),
I, Abba, the oppressed
and the persecuted (?),
who was born in Jerusalem,
and went into exile into Babylonia
and brought (back to Jerusalem) Mattathi(ah),
son of Jud(ah), and buried him in a
cave which I bought by deed.”
One theory is that the remains are of the last Hasmonean king, Mattathias Antigonus who was defeated and killed by the Romans in 37 BCE.
10.The Cave of Jehosef Son of Caiphas contains an ossuary bearing the Hebrew inscription "Jehosef bar [son of] Caifa [Caiphas]." The name Caifa appears for the first time in Hebrew and in an archaeological context. It was a nickname, as related by Josephus Flavius: "Joseph who is called Caiaphas" (Antiquities of the Jews 23: 35, 39). It is also the name of the High Priest mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 26: 3, 57) from whose Jerusalem house Jesus was delivered to the Roman procurator Pontius Pilatus who ordered his crucifixion.
Over time, Jerusalem, the Judean capital city, grew well beyond the City of David. At first, the Temple Mount was an addition to the city and was, apparently, fortified in some way (which still remains unknown). The process of expansion "beyond the walls" occurred after the population continued to increase.
The Bible mentions Mishneh (II Kings 22;14) and Makhtesh (Zephania 1;11), the names of residential neighborhoods outside the City of David. The main growth in population occurred when the Northern Israelite kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyria, and the people fled to the Southern Israelite kingdom of Judea; and when King Sennacherib of Assyria later led a military campaign, conquering the coastal cities of the land of Israel.
The Temple Mount
King Herod rebuilt the Second Temple at the end of the first century BCE. The Roman legions under Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, had crushed the five-year revolt of the Jews against Rome, conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 70 CE. Herod built the foundations for massive retaining walls that supported the podium on which the Temple stood, and these foundations are visible to this day; the best-known section is the Western Wall, the venerated remnant of the Temple where Jews pray to this day.
Excavations began in the 1970s along the southwestern corner of the Herodian Temple Mount enclosure. Remains of structures covering 2,000 years of history were uncovered bit by bit above the Second Temple period layer of destruction.
From 1993-1997, new excavations were conducted between the Western Wall and the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. After removing the debris of later periods, the Herodian street running along the western wall of the Temple Mount was exposed in its full length. It followed the course of the Tyropoeon Valley between the Temple Mount and the western hill, where the Upper City, the quarter of the well-to-do in the Herodian period, was located (the area of today's Jewish and Armenian quarters within the Old City wall and Mt. Zion south of the wall).
The base of a massive arch protruding from the Western Wall is known as Robinson's Arch. Opposite it, the remains of a pier which supported the other end of Robinson’s Arch have been exposed. The pier is constructed of large ashlars, similar to those of the Herodian walls of the Temple Mount. South of the pier, the foundations of a row of vaults which gradually rise from south to north were exposed. This row of vaults and Robinson's Arch, which is perpendicular to it, supported a huge staircase which connected the street in the valley with the Temple Mount, just as described by Josephus Flavius (Antiquities XV, 410-415).
The street was found covered by large stones fallen from the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount. Among the hundreds of stones weighing several tons each, architectural fragments were found which make it possible to reconstruct the staircase of Robinson’s Arch and the upper part of the Temple Mount retaining wall. A large corner stone with a typical Herodian profile found during the 1970s lying in the street below the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount has a Hebrew inscription, partially preserved: “To the trumpeting place to…” The most likely reconstruction of the missing ending of the inscription is "proclaim" or "separate."
The stone had been affixed at the top of the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, where the Temple priests announced the onset of the Sabbath (on Friday evenings).
The site now is open to visitors, who can walk on the original pavement of this street from the Second Temple period and follow in the footsteps of the throngs of pilgrims who walked here 2,000 years ago on their way to participate in the rituals on the Temple Mount.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, only one foundation wall was left standing, the Western Wall, which was an outer wall supporting the Temple Mount. This remnant surrounding the most sacred building in the Jewish world became the holiest spot in Jewish life. For millennia, Jews from throughout the world made the pilgrimage to Palestine to visit the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (the Western Wall) to thank God.
During the more than 1,000 years Jerusalem was under Muslim rule, Arabs often used the Wall as a garbage dump to humiliate the Jews who visited it. Today, under Israeli control, all religions have free, safe and open access to holy sites in Jerusalem.
 Gilbert, Martin, “Jerusalem: A Tale of One City,” The New Republic, Nov. 14, 2004
 Ibid., p. 4; “Statement by the Minister of State of the United Kingdom in the House of Commons,” April 27, 1950, in Lapidoth, Ruth; Hirsch, Moshe, The Jerusalem Question and its Resolution, Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994, p. 147
 Gabriel Barkay et al.,"The Challenges of Ketef Hinnom: Using Advanced Technologies to Recover the Earliest Biblical Texts and their Context," Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 66, No. 4 (December 2003), pp. 162-171