About Hezekiah’s Tunnel
Hezekiah’s Tunnel, also known as Siloam Tunnel and the Tunnel of Shiloh, in Jerusalem, is part of the wider archaeological site known as the City of David.
History of Hezekiah’s Tunnel
The tunnel was built by the 14th king of Judah, King Hezekiah, in 701 BC. Upon hearing of the approach of the Assyrian army, the king wanted to protect the city’s water supply and thus ordered the construction of this tunnel to act as an aqueduct, partly to ensure a supply of water for his citizens, but primarily to stem the water supply, preventing it from reaching the invading troops. This 1,750-foot marvel of engineering stretches from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam and is still in a remarkable state of preservation.
The events which led to the creation of Hezekiah’s Tunnel are described in the Bible and also on its walls. In 1880, a young boy found an inscription in the tunnel – known as the Siloam Inscription – telling of how the two groups digging it met in the middle. It’s still unclear precisely how Israelite engineers managed such a feat. Some have hypothesised that they were directed from above ground, using tapping and sound signals to identify where they were. The imperfect tunnel also shows this method was far from foolproof as it zigzags and winds in places.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel today
The tunnel can be walked through today – it’s quite an experience, and not one to undertake if you suffer from claustrophobia. The water often reaches hip height, so you’ll want to wear shorts / a swimsuit / quick drying trousers, and strap on shoes which you don’t mind getting wet. Unsurprisingly, the water is icy and a torch comes in very handy to understand what you’re looking at.
Guided tours are available, and help bring this remarkable site to life. It’s one way, and parts of it are very narrow – 60cm is the smallest gap you’ll have to squeeze through. Allow somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes to walk through the tunnel in its entirety. Check the water levels before going with children.
Getting to Hezekiah’s Tunnel
The tunnel is part of the City of David Archaeological Site. From the Dung Gate, head east (which is downhill) and take the road to the right (Ma’alot Ir David St). The entrance is a short way along on your left. There’s parking opposite, and a variety of buses stop close to the Dung Gate on the main road.
An country with a diverse religious, cultural, and political history, Israel is home to a number of striking sites which are essential for any visitor wanting to understand the rich history of the area. Here's our pick of 10 which you shouldn't miss.