Jerusalem is steeped in History, both above ground and below. Filming in Israel gives us an amazing opportunity to record the location of biblical events, bringing a slice of history to life.
Secret Passages Below the Temple Mount
The majesty of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has awed the world for thousands of years. On this site, long before the construction of the Dome of the Rock, Solomon built his temple and Mohammed ascended to heaven.
eir hollows, deep under the holy city of Jerusalem. Some believe they lead to glistening diamonds and buried gold, King Solomon’s fabled Temple treasures from three thousand years ago. Jerusalem legends tell of genies and ghosts that abide here, bringing either hindrance or help to the citizens of the world above.
In the searing prose of the bible, we hear of dramatic adventures that took place in these shadowy caverns; stories of desperate escapes along the dark, echoing corridors.
In Jerusalem, two separate worlds exist, separated by just a few meters of rock and stone. Above ground is the hustle and bustle of the Old City; the pilgrims of Via Dolorosa and bargain hunters in the historic Arab market. Below ground, shrouded in a millennium’s silence, are the tunnels, cisterns and caverns that still jealously guard their secrets.
Interpreting the Tunnels
Can the tunnels help us understand the bible? We query whether Jericho really fell to a trumpet note. Did God really destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? For believers and nonbelievers alike, we all seek proof of biblical events. The beauty of the tunnels is that they often act as a road map, authenticating biblical events, with excavated relics and ancient artifacts helping to substantiate religious events and firm up beliefs. On the other hand, the discoveries can also help archaeologists to distinguish between myth and reality.
Biblical archaeology is a comparatively modern pursuit. Its roots only go back to the last century, when a team of British engineers came to Jerusalem to survey and explore the Temple Mount and its surrounding area. In a state of excitement, they penetrated blocked caverns and traversed water sources and dark tunnels. In a frenzy of excitement, they discovered ancient ruins, hidden for centuries.
These early excavators were soldiers, under the command of Captain Charles Warren. They were the forerunners of modern-day archaeologists, like Dr. Ronny Reich, who has been digging in Jerusalem for over 20 years. Reich recently came to investigate one of the places first explored by Warren – a natural water source just south of the Temple area.
Warren discovered a manmade, underground water system, carved out of the surrounding stone. It originated at a high point and led to a shaft. He concluded that it was a concealed pathway, created to allow people to draw water without being seen by enemies outside. This would have been vital during a time of war. Undetected, Jerusalemites could still freely use their water source, the Gihon spring.
Trawling the Bible for Clues
Even in Abraham’s time, Jerusalem was a noted city. In fact, in Genesis Chapter 14 we read how Melchizedek, the King of Salem – the ancient name for Jerusalem, blessed the Patriarch. But the city isn’t mentioned again until many chapters and several hundred years later, in the second Book of Samuel when King David approaches with his army to attack a Jebusite Jerusalem.
The scripture tells us, ”And David said on that day whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain.” Then a few verses later we hear: “So David dwelt in the fort and called it the City of David. ”
But how did David conquer the city? It seems that the word ‘gutter’, in Hebrew, ‘tzinor’, is the key. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have various theories as to what the word means. Does the word ‘tzinor’ really indicate the Jerusalem water channel? If so, this wouldn’t be the first time in history that sneak attacks were made through a waterway.
Warren’s discovery of the shaft appeared to settle the mystery of the word ‘tzinor’. However, whilst many biblical scholars accepted that this must have been the place where David’s soldiers “went up the gutter” and conquered the City, others still had their reservations.
A Further Discovery Confuses Rather Than Clarifies
Further excavations by Reich showed that the water tunnel continued alongside Warren’s shaft. This presents us with another mystery; where did the tunnel lead? This question continues to fascinate Ronnie Reich. One of the consequences of his discovery is a reopening of the controversy surrounding the word ‘tzinor’ and the purpose of Warren’s shaft.
Reich’s unearthing of the extension to the tunnel was widely reported in the media and stunned the academic community. In one blow, it shattered Warren’s shaft theory and accompanying explanation of ‘tzinor’.
The refuted theories ignited a passionate debate among scholars on other issues. Some claimed the very authenticity of the bible, highlighting places where they felt it had been proven wrong; for example, the fortifying of Jerusalem has traditionally been attributed to King David but some feel this has been disproven by archaeologists, who found huge towers dating back further in time, to the Canaanite Jerusalem of Abraham’s era.
Others hotly dispute this, arguing that the finds, interpreted correctly, actually confirm rather than contradict the stories and historical events depicted in the bible.
Besides those seeking biblical truth, the tunnels have also attracted treasure hunters. In 1910, an Englishman, Captain Montagu Parker, following a Swedish mystic’s theory, dug here hoping to find the Ark and the treasures of Solomon’s temple. After bribing the Moslem guards, he began hunting for ways to enter the Temple Mount from one of the underground tunnels.
His search began close to Warren’s shaft, alongside Dr. Reich’s modern discovery. When Moslems found Parker digging around the mosque area by night, there was hell to pay. The cry went out, “the infidels are here. Islam is being violated!” As riots ensued, Parker fled the Holy Land, barely escaping with his life and leaving many unearthed artifacts abandoned.
The Truth Remains Concealed
The caves of Jerusalem remain steeped in biblical folklore, their secrets concealed despite the spate of archeological findings. Many feel that far from corroborating stories previously lost in time, they have just served to create further layers of mystery.