The tunnel was built about 700 BC by King Hezekiah to bring the water of Gihon into the city and store it in the pool of Shiloah, or Siloam. Its purpose was to prevent invaders, in particular the Assyrians, from locating the city’s water supply and cutting it off (II Chronicles 32).
The tunnel is narrow and wide in places, you can wade through it. The water is normally about half a meter deep. Due to the siphon effect it does occasionally rise, but only by about 15 to 20 cm. The entrance steps leading down to the water are medieval, built due to the ground level having risen over the years.
After about 20 meters the tunnel turns sharply to the left, where a chest high wall blocks another channel which leads to Warren’s Shaft. Towards the tunnel’s end the roof rises. This is because the tunnelers worked from either end and one team slightly misjudged the others level. They had to lower the floor so that the water would flow.
A Hebrew inscription was found in the tunnel, and a copy can be seen in the Israel Museum in the New City of Jerusalem. Carved by Hezekiah’s engineers it tells of the tunnels construction.
You enter the tunnel at the Gihon Spring source on Shiloah Way, down in the Kidron Valley and just south of the rest house.
The wade takes about 30 minutes; wear shorts and suitable footwear. Candles are available from the caretaker or a nearby shop. Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.
The Hezekiah’s Tunnel is really famous, as it is the greatest holdover of water engineering technology of the pre-classical period. The only structure of comparable importance is the Tunnel of Eupalinus on Samos in Greece.
This tunnel was made with contemporary technology, and exact surveying was not known at this time. The tunnel has many turns, the reason for the turns is unknown. Some talk about following a crack in the rock, others about following a small karst cave, which is was destroyed completely by the tunnel.
Possible are also different rock types, which made deviations necessary. The tunnel is 533m long, but if it had been built in a straight line it would have been 335m long, about 40% shorter. The tunnel was built from both sides and the engineers managed to meet at last. The way they did this is not completely solved, but most likely they heard the other team digging and headed towards the sound. There are also air vents to the surface which allowed “navigation”.
- Jerusalem, Old City.
- Open: All year Sun-Thu 9-17, Fri 9-15, Sat closed.
- Fee: free
- Classification: Water Supply
- Light: None, bring torches.
- Dimension: L=533m.