J E R U S A L E M | C I T Y O F D A V I D | H E Z E K I A H ‘ S T U N N E L
As a result of a potential snowfall tomorrow afternoon (an uncommon thing in Israel), we had to switch our field study of Hezekiah’s tunnel from tomorrow to today. The tunnel was located in the City of David; there was a bench outside the entrance where we stripped down to athletic shorts or leggings, and donned our swim shoes or sandals. Once ready, we went through a turning gate and then down a spiral staircase into the actual cave. Down a level, we wound our way down further and further, stopping to take note of the Spring of Gihon (Gihon is thought to derive from the Hebrew Giha which means "gushing forth" because the spring actually sprays like a geyser).
After seeing the spring, we now made our way upwards on manmade stairs, still moving further into the cave. Very near the entrance to Hezekiah’s tunnel, Vern stopped us and told us something incredibly interesting. Gesturing to the rocks sloping upward behind him, he told us that Solomon was anointed by David there, or a story above them. WOW. Need I say more?
Making our way past history, we continued to the entrance of Hezekiah’s tunnel. It’s a narrow space; an archway made entirely of stone. When entering the tunnel there is a fair amount of quick-moving water that you have to step down into. In addition, the water is initially fairly deep (on tiptoes it came up to my upper thighs). Oh, and did I mention cold? But that goes without saying.
So many thoughts were rushing through my mind as I made my way through .33 miles of hand carved cave. First off, I kept wondering how they did it (we still don’t know to this day by the way- it’s an architectural phenomenon). The cave is about shoulder length in width, though wider in various parts, and the height varied from 25’+ to 3’6” in other areas. The ground was incredibly level and smooth.
The walls on either side of the tunnel were incredible- full of indentions that I can only assume are from the carving process of the tunnel. Running my fingers along the rock, my mind was buzzing with questions. How many hours were spent chiseling? How many men participated? How did Hezekiah motivate and rally the men to take on such an astounding feat?
The only negative part of the experience was my inability to capture good photos of the tunnel while within the tunnel. I had an external flash ready to combat the total darkness of the cave, and my low-light f2.8 lens was ready to go. But then when I went to take a photo, my lens wouldn’t focus. I cleaned the glass, but that didn’t help. Because of the moisture in the tunnel, my lens and sensor had actually fogged over! That probably turned out to be for the best though, since I was able to really see, touch, hear, and experience > peering through a viewfinder. God’s been helping me to balance photography with being fully present as we explore Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.
Sixteen minutes later there was a light at the end of the tunnel that had grown to be over two stories tall. Outside of the tunnel was a stone bench built into the rock that we sat on while we exchanged our wet shoes for dry ones and added another pair of pants. Here, outside the cave I was able to get a few shots of the tunnel that were satisfactory.
Little did I know what awaited me on the other side of the stairs that led away from Hezekiah’s tunnel…