Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the highlight to my visit to the ancient City of David in Jerusalem. As I’m wading through its waters of living history, I get goose bumps all over.
The water is cold, no question. And it is now up to my knees. But, to be honest, I am more bothered about the flashlight I am holding; if the batteries fail, I will be plunged into the total darkness of the tunnel.
Still, at least I have a rock wall to guide me and this particular rock wall has been standing here for a good while: 2,000 years, give or take. I am in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a man-made tunnel still fed by the ancient waters of the Gihon Spring and I am walking in the very footsteps of the people of biblical Israel.
Like any ancient city, layers of history lie under the existing streets of Jerusalem. But perhaps only in Jerusalem would digging into the past be so controversial. While the Jerusalem above ground is strongly Arab and Muslim, the many tunnels excavated by archaeologists running under the city reveal its Jewish past of 2,000 years ago. Spotlighting this Jewish history leads Palestinians to worry that their present will be literally undermined, with their own claims to the city diminished.
Hezekiah’s tunnel is a fitting finale to a place that is unrecognizable from when I first walked along it over 15 years ago. Back then, the tunnel – which King Hezekiah had hewn from bedrock to provide a vital water supply to the city during times of siege – was hidden away under a tiny Arab village.
At the entrance I was met by a young shepherd boy who gave me a small candle for a few shekels. The flickering light guided me as I waded through these very same waters to the Pool of Siloam at its end, where Jesus was said to have cured a blind man. This was pure Indiana Jones and ever since, Hezekiah’s Tunnel has always been a special place for me.
Read all about Jerusalem in TRVL's Jerusalem city guide