A Travellerspoint blog

Miracles above and below

Elah Valley, the Bell Caves, and The City of David with Hezekiah’s tunnel

91 °F
View Israel on dasafish's travel map.

Today we started with a bus ride to the Elah Valley, where David confronted Goliath. Along the way our guide pointed out a collection of burned out and shot up vehicles left as a memorial along the side of the highway. The highway we were on was one of the main routes from the agricultural regions to Jerusalem and some of the Arab villages along the highway routinely attacked Jewish convoys of supplies heading to Jerusalem. Under British control, before 1948, Arabs were allowed to have weapons but it was forbidden for Jews. During the 1967 war, the hostile Arab villages were bulldozed but those that had not been hostile were left alone and today are large, prosperous, and living at peace with the Jews.

Socah, the hill on which the Philistines gathered is here. In the next photo, on the other side of the valley, is Azekah where the Israelites were encamped.Socah.jpgAzekah.jpg

A small brook ran on the Israelite side of the valley from which David (and Sandy) collected 5 smooth stones. The brook is dry this time of year, but we were assured that it flowed in less dry times.16362ee0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg

After the Elah valley, we drove to the “Bell” caves, named thus because of their bell shape. These caves are near the village of Bet Guvrin which was home to the prophet Micah. The surface of the ground is hard rock called Nari, but it is only a few feet thick and underneath it are large deposits of chalk. The people would dig a small hole through the Nari and then hollow out the land underneath to form bell shaped caves. It provided a cool and near perfect acoustically resonant chamber. We were going to sing there, but it was too crowded with other people so we settled for taking pictures of people in the small puddle of light coming through the shaft/hole in the ceiling.160d9840-87b9-11e9-bb70-f1a95a930e26.jpg1f932fb0-87b9-11e9-bb70-f1a95a930e26.jpg15fb21b0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg1fac35f0-87b9-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpg

From the Elah valley we traveled up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem sits high on a finger (a “ridge” running down from the top of the mountain with a ravine on either side), so if you go to Jerusalem, you are going to travel up. Once we arrived in Jerusalem, we walked through the area that had been the ancient city of David. There is little left of the 1st Century city since Jerusalem has been conquered, destroyed and rebuilt by the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, and Muslims on multiple occasions. Something that has survived is Hezekiah’s tunnel. In addition to building a defensive wall, Hezekiah realized that when Jerusalem was besieged by the Assyrians, they would need a source of water. His problem – the sources of water were outside of his wall. His solution, dig a tunnel from the springs outside the wall to a low spot in the old City of David, now more commonly known as the Pool of Siloam. Hezekiah ordered his engineers to begin digging (through solid rock) from both ends at the same time. No one knows how they did it; for all practical purposes, it was a miracle of God that the 2 ends found each other and was finished before the Assyrians showed up.

70a29200-87ba-11e9-9c26-cfc7a8559fa6.jpgWe started our journey to Hezekiah’s tunnel up at the top of the City of David (a bit below the Temple Mount complex). Our first task was to walk down more than 400 stair steps (interspersed with slopes). On the way down, we saw a piece of the original wall that protected the springs before Hezekiah built his tunnel. Once at the bottom, we had two choices, Hezekiah’s tunnel, which has the water from Gihon Spring flowing through it, or the “Caananite tunnel,” which is dry. We were prepared for the wet tunnel. We put on our water-capable shoes (no flip flops – they float off your feet), I held our flashlight and Dan our GoPro, and we stepped into the water. We had been warned the water would be cold and would start out thigh high, drop to ankle-to-midcalf high, then rise to mid thigh again at the end. The water was cold, but given how hot we’d been outside, it felt good! The tunnel is one person wide. There were a couple times when both my shoulders brushed both walls, and even I had to duck several times and bend over twice. But sometimes the ceiling of the tunnel was 20 feet up, though it never did get significantly wider. The tunnel was 533 meters (1750 feet) long and probably took 15-20 minutes for us to traverse. Just before the end of the tunnel where the water flows into the Pool of Siloam, we saw the sign Hezekiah put up commemorating the building of the tunnel.

I was so glad we had chosen to go through Hezekiah's tunnel. I was in there with friends from our tour; we were calling out to each other, “Here’s a hole,” “Here’s a step,” or “Duck,” as we went through. Because there were other people with their lights in the tunnel, it wasn’t oppressive or uncomfortable. Once I got out of the tunnel, my long pants were dry in 30 minutes. That’s how dry the air is here. True, they are “travel” pants and supposed to dry quickly, but 30 minutes is fast!

After Hezekiah’s tunnel and a devotion by a Moody staffer, we took the bus back to our room and a good night.

Posted by dasafish 10:51 Archived in Israel

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Love the pictures! Look like National Geographic :)

Good job on the Hezekiah tunnel! It's quite long!

by denwoo

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.