The Tower of David is quite literally where Jerusalem began-from historical, religious, and geographical perspectives. To the east of the Tower are historical sites spanning 4,000 years of the city's history including the Exodus, conquests led by Joshua to reach the Promised Land, and construction of the city by King David. To the west of the Tower lies the city of Jerusalem where prophets preached the word of God, foreign invaders penetrated and conquered the land, and where "radicals" emerged such as Jesus. The oldest remains of the city wall are buried in the bedrock of the hill underlying the Tower, which archaeologists have dated back to King Hezekiah in 8th century B.C.E., who built a wall and towers after the Assyrian invasion of Judah documented in 2 Chronicles 32:5. The wall was damaged during the Babylonian invasion, which led to the exile of the Jews in 586-587 B.C.E.
The Tower of David is located atop Mount Zion ridge in the Citadel at the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City. The Tower is one of the three surviving towers and surrounding fortresses built by King Herod to defend Jerusalem. Herod built this tower at the West Gate entrance of Jaffa because that location of the city was considered to be a weak link in the city's defense against foreign invaders. The Citadel is known as the Tower of David because it is thought that King Herod built it on the site of an earlier fortress constructed by Kind David. The Tower of David has formed part of the defense structures of Jerusalem for 2,700 years without interruption.
The historian Josephus in his book The Jewish Wars details the architectural work of King Herod. King Herod was a great architect who built numerous structures in Caesaria and within Jerusalem. One of Herod's building projects that Josephus describes was his palace, which stretched within the Citadel to the south. Josephus comments that Herod's palace was wondrous beyond words. Herod constructed three defense towers, naming one after his wife Mariamme, his friend Hippicus, and the third after his brother Phasael, which is now the Tower of David renamed by the Byzantines. According to the New Testament, Jesus was judged at King Herod's palace. The historian Josephus accounts that Jewish "rebels" were summoned before the Roman ruler, and were scourged and then crucified. In 6 B.C.E., the Roman procurator came to Jerusalem to govern, and he resided in the Herodian palace. This is where men of the Roman governing body would stay in Jerusalem. The palace and Citadel have remained sites of importance in Jerusalem.
The treatment of Jewish rebels by the Imperial Cult and Roman forces led to a band of rebels who led numerous attacks against the Romans. The Emperor Vespasian and his son Tacitus led a war against those who rebelled against Roman law. The great fire of 66 C.E. led to the burning of the Herodian palace and a large number of architectural structures within the Citadel.
During the Arabic period, the Fatimids lost the Citadel and Jerusalem to the Crusaders. In centuries to come, the Citadel was destroyed and built up numerous times by a variety of foreign occupations. On the top of the Tower of David is a mosque whose presence marks the Islamic presence in the city of Jerusalem. The minaret of the mosque hangs above the pleated tower top, reminding visitors of Islamic rule in Jerusalem after the Jews were exiled many years before. The Tower and mosque bring together the new and old Jerusalem in a part of history that can never be forgotten. In 1310 C.E., King Bin-Qalawoon built the mosque on the top of the Tower as a religious symbol for all to witness that Islam was the new order in Jerusalem. The Mamluk Sultan Muhammad in the 14th century built the final form of the Citadel. During the Mamluk period, Jerusalem became neglected and the Citadel barely survived.
The Ottoman victory led by Sultan Suliman the Magnificent in the 16th century marks the major renovation project of cleaning the Citadel and constructing the Jaffa Gate entrance to the western wall of the city. After the city became part of the Jewish state in the 20th century, history was made. This was the first time that the Citadel was not used for strategic purposes. Art and architecture are mirrors of a society. They reflect the state of its values, especially in times of crisis or transition. In the past 10 years, the interior of the Tower of David has been remodeled, transforming this witness of history into a museum. The museum lies within the Citadel, and serves as a testament of the Tower's years of service as part of the city's defense and now educational center. The museum of the Tower of David recounts the history of Jerusalem from its earliest Canaanite days evolving to its periods of glory and defeat, and countless episodes of bloodshed. The museum has the ability to bring 4,000 years of Jerusalem's history to life.
Nowhere in Jerusalem can another site like the Tower of David be found where archaeological finds coexist in situ side by side. The contents within the Tower of David are considered to be an illustrative, rather than a historical, museum. There are no objects of authenticity, but rather the museum uses exhibits that display each period of history to recount the history of Jerusalem.
The history displayed in the museum is neither limited to the city of Jerusalem, nor to the culture of a single people. The displays parallel the history of Jerusalem with the evolution of the Western world, including the earliest developments of Western civilization in the Fertile Crescent, the conquest of Alexander the Great, and the intrusion of numerous empires such as the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman. The birthplace of Christianity and the growth of Islam up until the Industrial Revolution can also be traced through the contents of the Tower of David museum. The presentation of history within the Tower of David focuses in a symmetrical fashion on the periods of the city's history that tap into different religious systems, including Egyptians (now the Coptic faith that shares the beginning of the Exodus to the Promised Land); Zoroastrianism (which marks the intrusion of Babylon into the city, and the exile of the Jews in 586/ 587 B.C.E.), and the practices of the many monotheistic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and polytheistic (Hinduism, Babylonian, Imperial Cult) faiths.
The Citadel has proven to be a wonderland of priceless finds for archaeologists. The excavation records detail finds unlike any other site, including potsherds, Byzantine wares, Islamic glass, and oil lamps from the Greek and Roman periods. The periods of occupation can be traced through these finds from the Hasmonean period (the time of the Crusades) to the domination of the Ottoman Empire. Below the Tower of David, the visitor can see a medieval moat that was filled in the late 19th century for defense purposes.
The Tower of David continues to inspire research and theories about the city of Jerusalem, and the people who roamed the site of the birthplace of numerous religions that exist today, and attempts to tap into the previous world to provide answers to eternal questions, such as the purpose of life. Scholars speculate about the type of warfare that predominated during the city's numerous periods of conflict, as well as who was attacking the city from the Jaffa entrance and why the attacks took place from this side. The Tower of David has intrigued those who have witnessed the silent stone structure that holds the secrets of time within its bricks. Archaeologists and scholars alike continue to visit the Tower to excavate the remains of the past, and thereby shed light on more details about the history of Jerusalem.