From Herod’s Palace to British Prison

Writen by: Community Writers

‪Have you ever wondered what it was like to have been a prisoner in Jerusalem in 1947? Or maybe you’ve wondered how Jerusalem has looked throughout the ages, how it has evolved over time, or even just what it was like to be a Jerusalemite at any given point in history?

Keep wondering for now, but extensive construction is now under way to transform the Kishle excavation into a more accessible site. Right now over 40 tons of wall stones and plaster from the Ottoman period have been removed to make a new entrance. Within a few years you will be able to access the Kishle not through  the steep staircase, but  via an elevator ascending to a rooftop observation deck and the Kishle structure entrance. Imagination is a beautiful thing, but in time, it won’t even be necessary to try to picture windows into the various time periods in Jerusalem’s glorious history. We will transform  the restored Kishle archeological site into an interactive experience that will literally provide windows into
what it was like to be a Jerusalemite throughout the ages!

Look around in the Kishle by moving the mouse in the photo


The Kishle, part of the Tower of David museum complex, served as a prison during both the Ottoman period and the British Mandate. However, during archeological excavations, we also uncovered the foundations of the magnificent palace of King Herod and remains from the First Temple Period – over 2,500 years ago!

If you know anything about King Herod, you know that the man was a bit on the paranoid side. As such, as renowned as he is for his impressive legacy of building, it follows that a paranoid King would include as a significant aspect of his structures the feature of secret tunnels. It should then come as little surprise that inside the Kishle and beneath the foundations of King Herod’s Palace, archeologists discovered large rock-hewn water tunnels from the Herodian period, 40 BCE to 4 BCE.

The tunnels carried water from outside the walled city to the palace pools and gardens within and would have provided King Herod a secret escape route. What’s more is that the tunnels also represent Jerusalem’s historic continuity and struggle for independence. That is because in 70 CE, the families of the Jewish priests fled Jerusalem through these tunnels but were captured and murdered by Zealots to prevent a weakening of the Great Revolt against the Romans; fast forward to the British Mandate period when the Kishle served as a prison and members of the Irgun (Etzel) Jewish underground movement tried to break in via the tunnels and free their comrades.

The Kishle is also unique even with respect to many of the publicized and storied archaeological sites throughout Jerusalem. As Ronny Reich, Professor Emeritus of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explains, “Several sites show remains from ancient Jerusalem, but each one shows only a limited chapter of the city’s history.


The excavations carried out under the floor of the Kishle building, and which descend considerable depths, give the longest sequence of strata, from the 19th century down to the 8th century BCE. This is a unique phenomenon, not found in the other archeological sites in Jerusalem which are open to the public… Particularly moving is the graffiti on its walls by the Jewish freedom fighters imprisoned there. This clearly connects the upper stratum with the lower strata. One cannot show such a connection in any other site in Jerusalem.”

Have you ever wanted to travel through time? We can’t promise that per se, but we will use new digital and technological devices so that you will be able to relive the events of the past through multi-media technological displays and virtual reality techniques to see how Jerusalem was molded throughout history to become the city it is today. Combining an archeological site with the technology to bring yesterday’s past into today’s reality, will be a truly one-of-a-kind experience.

But you don’t have to wait until we complete the whole project.

You can actually come right now and experience what prisoners in the Kishle jail experienced!

Join a special tour in English at the Tower of David and discover the archeological excavations that form the timeline of Jerusalem’s history from the First Temple Period to the birth of the State of Israel and everything in between!


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