Tower of David Re-Envisioned

Large-scale conservation project at Jerusalem's iconic site

A meeting point of eastern and western Jerusalem, the famous Tower of David Citadel sits right inside the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. More than 2,500 years old, the earliest layers of the site date back to the time of the biblical king Hezekiah, when the structure was no more than a section in the city wall. Throughout its history, the site was a defensive tower, a castle, and a home for monks. Since 1989, it houses the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem. As of this year, however, the citadel and the museum are partially closed, due to an ambitious project designed to restore and preserve the historic site and to upgrade the visitor experience for generations to come.

View from inside The Tower of David Citadel

Inside the Tower of David Citadel.
Photo credit: Tower of David archive.

Set to fully reopen in November 2022, the remodeled museum will include new exhibitions and galleries as well as a new café, plaza, and entrance. Through artifacts and cutting-edge interactive, digital displays, the new exhibit will show the history of Jerusalem like never before. The museum will go down almost sixty feet below the modern citadel, unveiling additional rooms and areas of the site. The current conservation project also includes excavations of never–before-explored sections of the citadel. These excavations have revealed new details of the site’s history, including artifacts, an Arabic inscription from 1212, and even a medieval toilet.

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Noam Zilberberg, archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Photo credit: Ricky Rachman.

The oldest history of this famous site dates to the end of the First Temple period, when a section of Hezekiah’s city wall ran through the area. During the Late Hellenistic (Hasmonean) period, another wall, as well as a royal palace, were built in the same area. King Herod the Great (r. 37–4 B.C.) then added a watchtower, which survives to this day and operates as the museum’s observation point. It wasn’t until the Byzantine period (A.D. 324–634) that the site was mistakenly associated with King David when a group of Christian monks took up residence in Herod’s tower. In the early Islamic period (638–1099), a citadel first arose to enclose the site. This citadel was greatly expanded by the Crusaders (1099–1260), who built a French Crusader Castle around it. The Mamluks (1260–1516) later rebuilt the citadel, creating most of the rooms used today by the museum. It was finally under the Ottomans (1516–1917) that the Old City got its current appearance, along with the walls, towers, and gates that stand to this day. Along with these construction projects, the citadel also added a massive gate, plaza, and minaret.

Promotional video from The Tower of David Museum about the project:


Read more in BHD:

Canaanite Fortress Discovered in the City of David

History of Bethlehem Documented by First Temple Period Bulla from the City of David

Biblical Persimmon Depicted in Ancient Jerusalem Seal

The Seleucid Akra: 2,200-Year-Old Jerusalem Fortress Uncovered?

Taking Out the Trash in Ancient Jerusalem

Nathan-Melek: Servant of the King

Missing Wall of Biblical Jerusalem Discovered

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