Tzolev Brook and King Hezekiah’s wall


We are close to Jaffa Gate near the Tower of David. In front of us towards the east, David Street, which is above Nahal Tzolev, which is Tzolev brook. When you look at the topographical map of the old city – there is a moderate drop from a height of 780m’ at Jaffa Gate and at the New Gate, to a height of 730m’ at the Dung Gate. The representative topographic height of most of the area of ​​the old city in Jerusalem ranges from 740 to 760 meters.

Two valleys separate the old city from the ridges that surround it: the Kidron valley in the east, and the valley of Hinnom in the west. The valleys meet south of the old city. In the 8th-10th centuries BC, Jerusalem was built on the eastern hill and included City of David, the Ophel, and the Temple Mount which is Mount Moriah. The city was bordered between the Kidron valley and the central ravine, which crosses the city from north to south. It separates between the eastern and the western hills, it is from Nablus Gate area to the Dung Gate area, and it also connects at the end to the Kidron valley. In this way, the city had a defensive topographical advantage from all directions, with the exception of the northern side.

In the 8th century BC, Jerusalem experienced a dramatic change that was mainly reflected in an accelerated growth of residents and settlement areas. During this period, the Kingdom of Judah took in many refugees from the area of ​​Samaria, which was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC. At that time, Hezekiah was king of Judah, and he prepared his kingdom and its capital Jerusalem to deal with the expected next step of the Assyrians, an attempt to conquer Jerusalem. Until the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians at 722 BC, Jerusalem included the City of David, the Ophel and the Temple mount which is Mount Moriah, but the City of David was already densely populated at that time, and many of the refugees who came to Jerusalem could not find a place to live there. Settlement began on the western hill. In a relatively short period of time, the entire hill was populated. During the second half of the 8th century BC, the settlement on the western hill was formed into a residential area that fueled the growth of Jerusalem. This area became known as ‘Mishne’.

Tzolev brook, which begins near our Jaffa gate, formed the natural northern border of Jerusalem after the settlement on the Western Hill. Jerusalem’s weak point has always been on its northern border and I expanded on the subject in the video about Herod’s gate.

The northern part is flatter, which allows for those trying to conquer the city a convenient preparation area. When it comes to placing large weapons of war, they require a wide plain, and flat terrain also allows for organizing many forces in a convenient manner. So, it’s no wonder that throughout history the city was always conquered from the north. For this reason, the residents of Jerusalem applied Jeremiah’s prophecy to Jerusalem, and I quote: “Out of the north the evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land” (Jeremiah 1:14), and therefore the great importance of Tzolev brook at that time.

The archaeological find provides a lot of data on the increase in the number of the population in Jerusalem at that time. King Hezekiah took steps to prepare Jerusalem for the battle against the Assyrians and built a system of fortifications that includes a wide wall that surrounds both the ancient and the new settlement area, and a water supply system that I will not cover in this video.

Tzolev brook is the only ravine that crosses the area from west to east. The beginning of Tzolev ravine is here near the Tower of David, and its direction is eastward until it connects to the central ravine below the Temple Mount. Above the brook, are today David and Shalshelet streets, together they form a long axis in the market of Jerusalem old city.

Jaffa Gate was preceded in the Crusader period by a gate called David’s Gate, which was built to the east of the current gate. It is worth referring to the map of Cambrai from the 12th century, where you can see the fort whose name is written Porta David with a gate next to it, so even in the Crusader period there was a gate here named David’s Gate. According to the map, the name of the street from this gate is Via David, and if we reach the entrance of the market, we can see that the street is named David, meaning that at least during the last 800 years, the name of the street has not changed.

Since the brook continues to form a natural drainage basin, dozens of sewer openings were incorporated into the floor of David Street at a density of one each few meters to allow easy access to the pipes in the event of a blockage.

The Crusaders under the leadership of Gottfried of Bayonne who led to the conquest of the city and Crusader control of Jerusalem in 1099, were the first to add a roof to the streets along the stream, as part of the development of the markets in Jerusalem, and it seems that at this stage the street received the double turn at the meeting point with the upper cardo. Since then, it is not possible to walk directly along the route of the stream, but – at this point – you have to turn right a few meters, and again to the left towards the east on Hashalshelet Street, which is named after the Chain Gate that leads to the Temple Mount. We will continue on the Jewish quarter road towards the south for about 50 meters.

A surprising find was the discovery of the remains of the wide wall on the northern slope of the western hill by Prof. Nachman Avigad. We see the remains of this wall here at Plugat HaKotel Street in the north of the Jewish Quarter, 50 meters south of Tzolev brook. The historical circumstances link the construction of the wide wall to King Hezekiah, in whose days the need arose to protect Jerusalem, and especially the ‘Mishne’, meaning second quarter on the western hill, against a possible Assyrian invasion.

The wide wall was built to the north of the western hill to protect the city in the section where the Tzolev ravine is not deep enough. The wall path was in correlation with the topographic contours of the northern slope of the western hill and in correlation with the topographic contours of Tzolev brook.

The wall together with Tzolev brook, protected Jerusalem during the siege imposed by Sennacherib on the city, in 701 BC. According to biblical evidence, the Assyrian camp was miraculously defeated and retreated from the city. It is possible that this wall in combination with Tzolev ravine, are one of the reasons that contributed to the inability of Sennacherib’s army to break into the city.

The importance of Tzolev brook as a natural topographical barrier decreased during Herod’s period, during the second part of the 1st century BC, with the expansion of the city to the north, and the construction of the second wall. The ravine of Tzolev brook became an internal street in the city, which took advantage of the topography, and allowed a relatively convenient passage from the west of the city to the east; It also connected the two Cardo streets – the upper Cardo and the Cardo in the valley.

The upper Cardo can be seen here, and it served the traffic on the upper hill and ended about 100 meters east of Zion Gate. The Cardo in the valley, which starts 20 meters from the first Cardo, along today’s HaGai Street – was used by the residents of the neighborhoods at the foot of the mountain. The Cardo in the valley ends at the tanners’ Gate near the Dung Gate. The two roads, the two longitudinal axes, were paved in the Roman-Byzantine period and were the main longitudinal streets of Jerusalem.

And to conclude, as usual I have a question for you – During the Second Temple period, what was the name of the northernmost wall built in Jerusalem. The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Jerusalem in the days of the First Temple: sources, summaries and reference material, Editors: David Amit and Rebecca Gonen, Publisher: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
  2. The new encyclopedia for archeological excavations in Israel

Mention in the Bible

  1. 2Chronicles chapter 32 verse 5
  2. Zephaniah chapter 1 verse 10
  3. Nehemiah chapter 11 verse 9
  4. Jeremiah chapter 1 verse 14

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