The Israelite Tower is an archaeological site in Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The tower is a significant find since it testifies to the size and strength of Jerusalem during the First Temple period.
It also is evidence of Jerusalem’s destruction at the hands of the Babylonians.
However, it was discovered and is still located in the basement of a building of all places.
The tower is the remains two periods in Jerusalem‘s long history.
The foundations of the tower is from the wall First Temple period and the tower next to it is a Hasmonean tower from the time of the Second Temple.
Before this discovery, may scholars believed that the city had been confined to its eastern ridge, including the Temple Mount and the City of David.
However, these finds have proven that by the end of the First Temple period, Jerusalem’s city walls had expanded to the Hinnom Valley in the west and had encompassed the entire southwestern hill.
The first tower is probably the corner of a gate tower built to protect the city’s vulnerable northern perimeter, preserved from the end of the First Temple period.
In fact, it may be the the corner of a four-chambered gatehouse in Jerusalem’s northern wall mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 as the “Middle Gate.”
While it is physically close to the Broad Wall, it appears to have come into use after the Broad Wall had already fallen into disuse.
What is certain is that this tower protected Jerusalem during the siege of Jerusalem until it’s destruction in 586 BCE by the Babylonians.
Finds unearthed at the site attest to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
Book of Kings describes Jerusalem burning at the hands of the Babylonians saying “And was burnt the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem and every big house burnt in fire, Jerusalem surrounding wall shattered.”
In the excavations, the researchers found remains of ashes and soot, showing that a fire had in fact raged there.
In addition, in the ashes they found arrowheads. Some were made of iron with a flat head known to be used by Judean army, while others were bronze polygon shaped commonly used by Babylonian archers after 600 BCE.
Pottery found within the conflagration layer is dated earlier than 586 BCE. This means the arrowheads are likely remnants of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
They are thought to be the first remains ever recovered of the Babylonian siege, having come to rest in the ashes of the burning city.
Next to the Israelite Tower, is an additional fortification dating to the days of the Hasmoneans.
It appears that when the Hasmoneans fortified the city, they restored ancient fortifications and integrated them into the new defensive wall.
They used the remnants of the “Israeli tower” and attached a wall with a defensive tower to it.
A shared floor indicates that the Hasmoneans adapted the fortification to their needs.
This tower is 9 meters wide and is built of ashlar stones with margins typical of the Hasmonean buildings.
The masonry is characteristic of the 1st or 2nd centuries BCE, as is the pottery found on and below another surface bonded to the wall, 1.3 meters above the earlier floor.
These have linked the later defenses to the Hasmonean “First Wall,” described in detail in Josephus’ The Jewish War.
Although, Josephus erroneously attributes it to David, Solomon and the kings of Judah, construction of the wall was initiated by Jonathan Maccabeus and completed by his brother Simon during the 2nd century BCE.
A nearby gap between fragments of the wall hints that another city gate stood at the site, possibly the Gennath gate also mentioned by Josephus.
Check out the Israelite Tower information page for information on hours and ticket prices.