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Tower of David Museum Gets Major Makeover as Archaeologists Uncover Pieces of Jerusalem’s Past

Museo de la Torre de David. Credit Hamutal Wachtel

JERUSALEM,  Israel - One of Jerusalem’s most iconic sites is the Tower of David at the entrance of the Old City. This ancient citadel is getting its first major overhaul in hundreds of years.

“This is a rare and unique opportunity for archaeologists because we have a lot of questions about the citadel, archaeological questions, historical questions and not every day you get the chance to explore a symbol in Jerusalem,” Amit Re’em, Jerusalem’s Chief Archeologist told CBN News. “The [Tower of David Museum] is a symbol. This is the struggle of Jerusalem.”

Re’em is overseeing this massive project. 

“Suddenly, the stones start to speak,” he said. “We are excavating…We discover hidden passages, ancient walls, ancient fortifications. It’s become alive.”

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought virtually no tourists to Israel, giving experts the unique opportunity to conserve and renovate the site.

“It’s a huge project to renew this museum for the future visitors,” Eilat Lieber, Director of the Tower of David Museum said.  “Of course, we’re talking about seven new galleries, which tell the story of Jerusalem, but it’s more than this.”

Lieber is looking forward to one-day welcoming tourists to the newly renovated site.

The last major construction project on the citadel goes back to Suleiman the Magnificent during the 1500s who rebuilt this fortification and the walls of the Old City. It is a timepiece of Jerusalem.                                                      

“You can see the layers upon layers upon layers and understand the beauty of the evidence, the archaeology, and the history together, the combination is really unique,” said Lieber.

Re’em says visiting the citadel is critical to learning about the history of Jerusalem. He and his team of archaeologists working in the site have already found relics of the pat, past including a 1,000-year-old private toilet that was probably used by the commander of the citadel.

The renewal project is uncovering hidden treasures and secrets of ancient Jerusalem.  One hidden passageway may have been used by Crusaders to escape the citadel. 

“Every time I’m here, I just imagine that in the time of trouble, all knights – all the crusader knights, all the Muslim knights, running away in this dark tunnel, emerging outside the city,” Re’em said.

The citadel also holds a place called the Kishle where now many believe Jesus was brought before King Herod.

“If you look in ancient Christian sources from the 5th, 6th century AD. They describe the way of the suffering starting on Mount Zion, going in approximately direct access towards the north, towards the Holy Sepulcher. Meaning passing today the area of the citadel and the area of Herod’s palace,” Re’em explained. “On the way, they described the Praetorian, the place of the sentence. Meaning, in ancient Christian times, people saw the place of the Praetorian probably around Mount Zion, or today, in [the] Jewish Quarter, Armenian Quarter, Herod’s Palace.”

“It’s only natural to assume that when Pontius Pilate came to Jerusalem, where did he sit? He sat in a luxurious place, in the former Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem, right here. And, maybe, just maybe, the sentence of Christ happened here,” he continued.

The renewal project’s goal is to bring the story of Jerusalem to life.

“I’m sure that the combination which takes new exhibit rooms, which tell the history of Jerusalem from [the] ancient period until [the] modern period, with the combination of archaeology that you see right before your eyes, this is the perfect combination. And the visitor will have here the ultimate experience before they enter to visit Jerusalem. You must visit here,” said Re’em.

The project will take two years to complete but when tourists do return to Israel, the museum will be open.   

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