Israel Mystery Photo #7

The next Israel Mystery Photo

Yet another mystery: where in Israel was THIS photo taken?

My previous Israel Mystery Photo seems to have struck a good balance. 2 correct answers, and one incorrect, but the incorrect was a decent guess from a first time commenter, Sharone. And Shmilty finally got a right answer! Happy for you buddy. Of course, Aaron once again got it right. That man is like a machine, I tell you.

But yes, the correct answer to last week’s photo was indeed the Tower of David in Jerusalem’s Old City.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Crusaders were not known for their geographical skills, and often misnamed things in Israel. The Tower of David is similarly misnamed, but this mistake is attributed to a different group of Christians — the Byzantines.

Arriving in Jerusalem they saw a large fortress and massive tower. Not knowing the geography of the city, nor having the archaeological knowledge that we have today, they assumed that such a structure could only be attributed to the great King David. Remember also that finding sites associated with David was particularly important to the Byzantines due to their association of Jesus with David.

In reality, during David’s time, the city of Jerusalem was much smaller, and actually was located to the southeast of the “Tower of David.” Nearly 300 years after David’s time, King Hezekiah first built walls that encompassed the city’s western expansion. The “Tower of David” is in the area that was then the northwest corner of the city. It is unclear whether he built any kind of fortress here, though it might have been logical, as it was a natural weak spot in the city walls due to topography.

Over the centuries, the city continued to expand northward, and the Hasmoneans most likely built a fortress here. Certainly Herod’s expanded city featured a massive citadel at this spot, including three massive towers. Josephus Flavius describes them in Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 4:

[Herod] dedicated these towers to the memory of those three persons who had been the dearest to him, and from whom he named them. They were his brother, his friend, and his wife. This wife he had slain, out of his love [and jealousy], as we have already related; the other two he lost in war, as they were courageously fighting. Hippicus, so named from his friend, was square… the entire height added together amounted to fourscore cubits. The second tower, which he named from his brother Phasaelus, had its breadth and its height equal, each of them forty cubits; over which was its solid height of forty cubits; over which a cloister went round about, whose height was ten cubits, and it was covered from enemies by breast-works and bulwarks. There was also built over that cloister another tower, parted into magnificent rooms, and a place for bathing; so that this tower wanted nothing that might make it appear to be a royal palace. It was also adorned with battlements and turrets, more than was the foregoing, and the entire altitude was about ninety cubits; the appearance of it resembled the tower of Pharus, which exhibited a fire to such as sailed to Alexandria, but was much larger than it in compass…. The third tower was Mariamne, for that was his queen’s name…. The entire height of this tower was fifty cubits.

I’ve highlighted the description of the second tower, Phasael, because it is that tower’s base that remains as part of the Tower of David today. If you look at the photo I included, you will see that the lower stones are larger and of a different variety than the upper ones. Those lower stones are the Herodian remains, and bear a similar dressed pattern to the stones that are famously included in the Western Wall.

Most of the rest of the fortress is later construction from a variety of eras, mixing such diverse styles as Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman. Adding this to the misnaming of the place, we have a site that is full of mystery, waiting to be unraveled and explored. Today, the Tower of David houses an archaeological park and a museum of the history of Jerusalem, and also hosts a popular sound a light show in the evenings.


  1. Dor musuem Shaul Shavuah tov

  2. norah mazar says:

    Looks very Templar to me, like the houses in the German colony, but this one is from that community farther north whose name I forget….

  3. Sharone Zitzman says:

    Ok. So I have no idea where this is – but it looks like it should be in Zichron. Does that count for anything?

  4. Nice place!

  5. Marcia Frith says:

    I enjoyed this article on Cesarea. If you have photographs of the Crusader Church at Cesarea, I would like to see them.

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