The History of the Siloam Tunnel

Below the City of David, the Siloam Tunnel, also known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel, is one of the oldest surviving remnants of ancient Jerusalem, and is an engineering marvel of the Old World. The 1,500-foot tunnel was built in 701 B.C.E. on the orders of King Hezekiah to protect the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s major water source, from invaders. According to an inscription found near the one of the tunnel’s entries, digging teams began work at each end of the site and met in the middle, locating each other only by the sound of their pickaxes striking the rock.

Today, visitors can tour the tunnel by wading through approximately two feet of flowing water that still snakes its way through the underground corridor, whose walls are still pockmarked by the ancient workers’ pickaxes. It takes approximately 45 minutes for visitors to make their way through the main tunnel, though they may also wish to explore a second, dry tunnel that has been excavated more recently. In any event, exploring the Siloam Tunnel provides visitors a fascinating link to the ancient culture of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Leib Tropper has lived in Jerusalem during his career and is the founder of the Kol Yaakov Yeshiva and Torah Center in Monsey, New York.

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