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Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah,  and all his might
and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought
water into the city, are they not written in the book of
  the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
"                                      
SECOND KINGS 20:20
                                                                           

Frequently Asked Questions about Hezekiah's Tunnel

The Assyrians from northern Iraq were on the warpath in 701 BC and Hezekiah, king of Judah, ordered his engineers to guarantee a steady supply of drinking water to the western quarters of his capital city, Jerusalem.  Two crews, one starting from the east and the second from the west, chiseled a tunnel under the city which diverted water from the Gihon spring into a pool later called the Pool of Siloam.  Splashing through Hezekiah's Tunnel in shorts and crocs can be one of your most thrilling adventures during your pilgrimage to Jerusalem, D.C. (that is David's City!)

Today access to Hezekiah's Tunnel is via an underground shaft and tunnel complex where you pass by huge "cycloptic" towers (named after the Cyclops, a race of giants in Greek mythology).  These towers are dated from the Canaanite period, 800 years even before David conquered Jerusalem.

It was actually David's nephew, Joab or Yoav in Hebrew, who darted up the tsinnor (which probably means water shaft), surprising the over-confident Jebusites who had taunted the men of Judah that Jerusalem was so impregnable that even the lame and the blind could defend the city.  Today, we're not sure where the tsinnor actually was – the latest theory is perhaps between the two Cycloptic towers.  But there's
no doubt about the location of Hezekiah's Tunnel.

Hezekiah's Tunnel in the City of David

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

White arrow marks the beginning of Hezekiah's Tunnel in the Kidron Valley

Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions about Hezekiah's Tunnel:
Q.  How high  is the water and how cold?
A.  The water level averages 70 centimeters which is 2 feet 3 inches.  At the beginning of the tunnel the water is knee-high, (I'm 5 foot 7) but near the exit of the tunnel, the water is nearly waist-high.  The water seems cold, especially in summer when it is super-refreshing.  I've heard that the water is the same temperature all year round at 17 degrees centigrade (63 degrees Fahrenheit), for its source is an underground spring.

Exiting Hezekiah's Tunnel

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Note the water level on Dr. Steve McConnell who is about 5 ft 10

Q.  How was the tunnel dug out?
A.  With hammers, chisels, pick-axes and a bucket brigade.  A crew of engineers started at each end and, whoops, almost missed each other.
Q.  How did the tunnelers meet?
A.  Divine guidance
B.  They followed a crack in the rock.
C.  They followed the lines of an underground stream
D.  They followed a soft strata of rock
E.  Each team dug a concentric circle
F.  Pure luck
G.  Be an archeologist or geologist: make up your own theory!
Q.  Who was the first to tell us about wading through Hezekiah's tunnel and how long did it take?
A.  Captain Charles Warren, the "Indiana Jones" of his day, explored the tunnel in 1867 with his intrepid assistant, Sergeant Birtles.

Warren recorded in his journal that in the beginning it was very plain sailing until they reached 600 feet into the tunnel and then they began crawling on all fours.  Suddenly, as they saw bits of cabbage stalks floating by, they realized that the waters had started to rise.  Warren had a pencil, compass and field book in his hands, with the candle in his mouth.  He and Birtles had just four inches breathing space. While he was making observations, Warren's mouth was under water.

At 900 feet into the tunnel they discovered false turns and began to go in a zigzag direction.  It was here that Warren nearly choked when he accidentally swallowed part of his lead pencil.  When they came out shivering, it was dark.  The pair of explorers had been nearly four hours in the water.

Today the 1750-foot wade is a lot more fun and takes only about 40 minutes.  The potholes on the floor of the tunnel have been recently smoothed out which unfortunately lowers the ceiling for us tall people.  I tend to forget to duck and bump my head!
Q.  Did Hezekiah's Tunnel keep the Assyrians from conquering Jerusalem?
A.  Yes.  The Bible offers two versions of why the Assyrians gave up their siege and returned to Assyria.  Second Chronicles tells us that the king of Assyria left suddenly because he heard rumors of a revolt in his palace.  Second Kings 19 says that 185,000 Assyrians died in one night.

The older King James translation gives us an unusually vivid description of what happened: "and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses." (Second Kings 19:35)
Q.  What's at the end of Hezekiah's Tunnel?

Exit of Hezekiah's Tunnel which leads past ruins of a fifth century church

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Exit of Hezekiah's Tunnel which leads past ruins of a Byzantine church

A.  As we emerge from the tunnel we pass by some ruins of a fifth century church and then as we exit, we walk along the authentic steps leading down into the second temple period Pool of Siloam where the healing of a blind man took place as per John chapter 9.

Herodian steps leading to second temple period Pool of Siloam

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Herodian steps leading down to the Pool of Siloam of Jesus' day

Q.  What do we need to explore Hezekiah's Tunnel?
A.  Wear rafting sandals, crocs or old sneakers and bring a flashlight.  (Barefoot is not permitted, nor are candles.)  And don't forget your spirit of adventure!
I look forward to splashing through Hezekiah's Tunnel with you and your group during your next visit to Jerusalem D.C. (David's City).  For a group of more than 10 people we need to make reservations.   Just let me know in advance!

Copyright 2011 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

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Gila Yudkin, a Connecticut-born Yankee living now in King David's Court, has, during her three decades of guiding, splashed through Hezekiah's Tunnel at least 581 times including nine in utter darkness.  On your way down to enter the tunnel, ask Gila to show you the massive 120-foot 10th century BC wall, presumed by some archeologists to be the foundation of David’s royal palace.  With Gila’s creative commentary, you will be straining your neck to catch a glimpse of Bathsheba!  
 
Read a translation of the 8th century BC inscription chiseled into the bedrock by Hezekiah's engineers and learn about its discovery by a truant pupil in 1880.
Read more about Charles Warren, the 19th century role model for Indiana Jones.
More Holy Land Adventures

Let's watch David fight Goliath

Hike the old Jericho Road   

Camel riding

David vs. Goliath


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin