Four Periods in the History of Jerusalem
by Lili Eylon
The ancient stones of Jerusalem,
the capital of Israel, are imbued with millennia of history. In 1000 BCE
King David made the city, located in the heart of the country, his capital.
Over the centuries, Jerusalem,
held sacred by the three major monotheistic religions, has been a city of
places of worship, community life and cultural development as well as a
focus of conflict. Today, it is a growing metropolis which faces the
challenges of modern urban life while preserving its unique historical and
The interested visitor can view, in Jerusalem, models depicting the city
in four periods of its history:
In the First Temple Period (c.
960-586 BCE); during King Herod's reign in the first
century CE (Second Temple Period, 538 BCE - 70 CE); in the latter part of
the 19th century, under Ottoman rule; present-day Jerusalem, planning for the future
Some 3000 years ago, King David made Jerusalem his capital. Solomon, his
son, expanded the city and built the Temple to God.
The building of this, the First Temple, is reported to have
been started in the fourth year of Solomon's reign, and to have taken seven
years to complete. As the central place of worship in the country, it was
in use for four centuries. Its fame among the nations of the region rested
on the splendor of its outer appearance and its inner appointments, and on
the holy ark of the covenant which it housed. The Temple was located near the royal
palace and enjoyed royal patronage. In 586 BCE, it was destroyed by the
What did Jerusalem look like in the First Temple period? A model of the ancient city, built
under the auspices of Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, is located in an unassuming
house in the heart of the Old City's Jewish Quarter. Planned as an
educational tool to teach the history of Jerusalem, the model is scaled at
about 1:250 and covers a surface of 35 square meters. Miniature replicas of
stone structures, as well as of the fortified wall, were constructed on the
basis of archeological evidence. Archeologist Dan Bahat, an expert on Jerusalem, is the scientific adviser
for the model.
A sound and light show is screened several times daily
in Hebrew, English, French and Russian; by using special glasses, the
viewer embarks on a three-dimensional "tour" of the sites of
biblical Jerusalem. Particular
emphasis is placed here on the well-planned water systems carved out of
rock during the rule of the Kings of Judah. In his trip into the past, the
viewer learns about the conquest of Jerusalem by King David three millennia ago, the construction of the Temple, the
cutting of the Siloam Tunnel (to safeguard the city's water supply) and the
horrors of the Babylonian siege and conquest in the sixth century BCE.
The First Temple has not been reconstructed: while detailed descriptions appear in biblical
sources, no archeological evidence has been uncovered to date. In the
model, therefore, the building is schematically represented by a box.
However, the myth of the Temple's splendor and its
treasures persists. At the beginning of the 20th century, Finnish
theologian and poet Walter H. Juvelius conceived the idea of digging in the
City of David, which is located on a ridge south of the present Old City,
and is, in fact, the original site of Jerusalem.
By reinterpreting certain biblical passages, Juvelius believed, the
treasures of the First Temple could be found. As fate would have it, he met Captain Montague Parker, a
young officer recently released from the British army, and managed to win
him over to his plan. Parker took advantage of his social position and
family connections to raise a sum of money with which to begin excavations
in search of King Solomon's treasures. The investors were promised a large
portion of the treasure when it was found. Parker led the expedition that
arrived in Jerusalem in 1909 and
began to dig in the City of David and in the Siloam Tunnel, which he
believed led to the Temple Mount.
Father Vincent, a prominent Jerusalem archeologist associated
with the Ecole-Biblique, joined the excavations. While other members of the
expedition pursued excavation of the canals, the Siloam Tunnel and the
other ancient water systems, Vincent documented the findings.
With the assistance of experts brought from Europe,
Parker dug through a complex system of canals in his attempt to penetrate
the Temple Mount. The work was done under harsh winter conditions, with the
constant threat of landslides and the collapse of the canals - and was kept
secret for two years (1909-1911).
In the spring of 1911, when Captain Parker realized that
the Ottoman authorities would not allow him to continue digging, he bribed
some Wakf (Moslem religious) officials, and, together with some of his men,
penetrated the Temple Mount and began excavating. He was quickly
discovered, and the members of the expedition had to flee the country.
Interest in the affair continued, however, and
journalists wondered whether the treasures of the Temple had been
discovered and hidden. However, the expedition had in fact not found any of
the Temple's treasures.
Exhibited together with the model are Father Vincent's
sketches and maps of the water canals, as well as his photographs (on glass
plates). There are also newspaper clippings in several languages about the
stir caused by the excavation.
An account of the excavation was published by Father
Vincent in 1911 in his book "The Underground Jerusalem"; his
findings are consulted to this day by researchers of the First Temple
"Like a snowy mountain glittering in the sun"
- that is how Josephus Flavius, a first century historian, described the
outer appearance of the Second Temple, built of three different shades of
marble. Today not much remains in the way of concrete evidence of the
splendor of the Temple: just the Western
Wall, remnant of the Temple Mount enclosure, as well as recent
archeological discoveries, literary descriptions, depictions on coins and
the fresco in the 3rd century synagogue at Dura Europos in Syria.
The interested observer, however, can see a model (scale
1:50) of Jerusalem during the
Second Temple period at the Holyland Hotel, located on a hill in modern Jerusalem. Israelis and tourists, as
well as groups of schoolchildren, come to view the model and to learn about
the city before its destruction by the Romans in
The model was built with the initiative and resources of
Mr. Hans Kroch under the supervision of the eminent archeologist Professor
Michael Avi-Yonah of the Hebrew University. Professor Avi-Yonah, in turn,
based his work on information found in the writings of Josephus Flavius, in
the New Testament, in Jewish sources such as the Mishna and the Talmud and in the
traditions concerning important buildings of the time.
Professor Avi-Yonah supervised the construction of the
model and its renovation until his death in 1974. Mrs. Eva Avi-Yonah drew
the plans of the entire model, as well as sections and facades of most of
the buildings. As far as possible, the model has been constructed of the
materials used at the time: marble, copper and iron, stone and wood.
Dr. Yoram Tsafrir of the Hebrew University, who, since
the death of Professor Avi-Yonah, has been in charge of updating the model
in accordance with the latest archeological discoveries, explains that
there may be some inaccuracies in the model, but they are minor. Thus, for
example, the round Herodian theater is now known not to be in the right
location. "But since we do not know where exactly it was situated, we
leave it where it is," maintains Professor Tsafrir, whose expertise is
in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. He explains that recent
archeological findings also prompted a change in the approachway to the
Temple. "Now we know that the entrance was to the south," the
Probably the most imposing part of the model are the
walls, some as much as 70 cm. high - 35 m. high in actuality. Ancient Jerusalem was defended by three such
walls on its vulnerable northern side, while a single wall was sufficient
on the west, south and east, because of the deep valleys surrounding the
city on these sides.
Equally imposing are the three towers built by King
Herod (37-4 BCE) to protect his palace. The largest, 45 m. high, was called
Phasael, after Herod's brother; the second, Hippicus, 40 m. high, was named
after an otherwise unknown friend of the king; and the third, 27.5 m. high,
was called Mariamne after Herod's queen, whom he loved but nevertheless
condemned to death. This tower is more ornate than the other two towers,
because, in the words of Josephus, "the king considered it appropriate
that the tower, named after a woman, should surpass in decoration those
called after men."
Herod's palace, currently being redesigned in the model,
consisted of two main buildings, each with its banquet halls, baths and
bedrooms for hundreds of guests. All around the palace were groves of
trees, ponds and walkways.
The hill east of the palace, the Upper City, had been
inhabited during biblical times, but was deserted after the Babylonian
conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
During Herod's reign and in the first century, the Upper City, once more
inhabited, was the residential quarter of the Jerusalem aristocracy and priestly
families. The Upper Agora, surrounded by porticoes, was the
"forum," the place where citizens assembled for business. Another
gathering place, this one on the Temple Mount, was the Royal Hall, built by
Herod - one of the largest buildings in the Roman Empire.
Clearly discernible in the model are luxurious private
buildings, remains of which were uncovered recently, mostly in excavations
in the Jewish Quarter. The buildings included large rooms decorated with
frescoes and mosaics, bathrooms, water cisterns and ritual baths. One such
building, revealed in 1970, is known as the "Burnt House." Filled
with the implements of everyday life in the first century CE, it was
completely burnt as a result of the conflagration that reduced the Upper
City to ashes in the year 70 CE.
The only permanent water source of the city in this
period, the monumental Pool of Siloam, is clearly distinguishable in the
model. It was fed by waters of the Gihon Spring diverted through Hezekiah's
Tunnel, built in the 8th century BCE.
Visible also are the Western
Wall and the Second Temple, built by the returnees from Babylon under
Zerubabel (sixth century BCE). Similar to the Temple of Solomon but less
ornate, it was enlarged by King Herod and made into the magnificent edifice
shown in the model. The important sections of the Temple included separate
courts for men, women and priests, as well as the Holy of Holies. The
Beautiful Gate led to the Women's Court, beyond which women were not
permitted. The Gate of Nicanor (named after a rich Jew from Alexandria who
donated the door), distinguished by its copper color, leads from the
Women's Court to the innermost court; it is approached by fifteen curved
steps upon which the Levites stood singing and playing music.
"The model, which needs constant refurbishing and
maintenance," says Professor Tsafrir, "serves to depict for the
visitor how Jerusalem looked and
functioned in the Second Temple period." One can, of course, study the
model and then visit the actual excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The visitor to Jerusalem often begins his tour of the Old City at the Jaffa Gate. The Tower of David
Museum of the History of Jerusalem is located in the magnificent nearby Citadel. Modern methods, including
photographs and copies of original artifacts, audio-visual exhibits,
illustrations and more, conjure up before the visitor's eyes a colorful
procession of events from Jerusalem's
variegated history. Jerusalem is
all there - from its ancient beginnings to the 20th century.
And should the visitor, on entering the archeological
garden, descend some sixty steep steps into an ancient cistern, he will
find himself face to face with a portrait of Jerusalem as it was in the 19th
century - in the form of a remarkable model, built by a Hungarian Catholic,
Stephan Illes (pronounced il-yesh), a native of Bratislava, at the time
part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The area of the model, built to a scale of 1:500,
stretches from the Mount of Olives in the east to the Russian Compound (the
construction of which began in 1858) in the west, and from the spring of
Ein Rogel in the south to beyond the Damascus Gate in the north. Included
are the four quarters of the Old City, the Temple Mount, the Mount of
Olives, the village of Silwan on the site of the City of David and the
Citadel (the Tower of David, used by the Ottoman
Turks as a fortress, and by the British as a venue for cultural
activities). Also depicted here are the first Jewish neighborhoods to be
built outside the city walls in the mid-nineteenth century: Mishkenot
Sha'ananim, the first of these neighborhoods (built between 1857 and 1869),
complete with its windmill, as well as the Sultan's Pool (today a site for
spectacular performances). The newly-built Hurva and Tiferet Yisrael
synagogues, later destroyed during the Jordanian occupation of the city,
are seen in the Jewish Quarter. Only six gates are shown along the city
walls: Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Lions' Gate, the sealed Gate of Mercy
(Golden Gate), Dung Gate and Zion Gate. Herod's Gate, missing in the model,
was reopened in 1874, and the New Gate was added only in 1889. The German
Church of the Redeemer is marked by a solitary German flag, while David's
Citadel is still surrounded by the moat which was later filled in for the
visit of German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1898).
The model is richly detailed: Illes not only reproduced
every street and alley in the city and almost every building, but also
included flags on the churches, a small cannon, which stands on top of one
of the towers of the Citadel, telegraph lines, which were installed in the
city in the mid-1860s, and even signs on some of the shops. What is missing
are figures of people, but, as Deborah Lipson of the museum explains, the
residents of Jerusalem on this
scale would have been only about 3 millimeters high. Weighing about a ton,
the model is built in 8 sections for easy transportation, and is made of
strips of beaten zinc mounted on a wooden platform.
The fact that this extraordinary model of 19th century Jerusalem, rediscovered only a few
years ago in a Geneva storeroom, has found its way to Israel's capital is
due to sheer coincidence.
A bookbinder by profession, Illes came to Jerusalem in 1860. He worked in the
Franciscan monastery of St. Savior before opening his own bookbinding
business. Caught up in the trend of model-making fashionable in the 18th
and 19th centuries, Illes is known to have built two additional models
besides the one exhibited at the Tower of David Museum: one of biblical Jerusalem, the other of his
contemporary 1880 Jerusalem. No
one has yet uncovered their whereabouts. And no one knows what became of
Illes after he left Jerusalem in
Illes built his model specifically for the 1873 World's
Fair in Vienna, where it was displayed in the Ottoman pavilion. This may
have accounted for possibly deliberate inaccuracies on the part of Illes:
he made the Dome of the Rock twice its actual size and the walls of the
city three times as high as they are in reality. He toured Europe with the
model, hoping to sell it to raise funds for the building of two more Jerusalem models. He succeeded in
Geneva in 1878, when the 10,000 francs he asked for were raised by some of
Geneva's prominent families, including Gustave Moynier, one of the founders
of the International Red Cross. For more than 40 years, the model was on
display at the Maison de la Reformation, a private evangelical association
which assumed its legal ownership.
In 1920, the League of Nations leased the building and
the model had to be moved. It was transferred to the attic of Geneva's
Public and University Library, where it was stored
"provisionally" for 43 years. It was briefly exhibited in 1963,
before ending up in storage in the city's Palais Wilson, where it lay
Then, one day, Rehav Rubin, a historical geographer at
Jerusalem's Hebrew University, came across a reference to the model while
preparing a course on ancient maps of Jerusalem.
One of his students, Moti Yair, Hungarian by birth, recognized Illes to be
a Hungarian name, and decided to find out more about the model and its
maker. Sitting over a cup of coffee with friends in the university library
a few days later, Yair recounted how he had managed to trace the model to
Geneva in 1878, and there he came to a dead end. Another student, Arianne
Littman, who was due shortly to go to Geneva for a vacation, overheard him,
and offered to try to locate the model there. Her father, David Littman, to
whom she told the story, was planning to meet with a veteran librarian at
the Public and University Library the following day. As luck would have it,
the librarian knew of the model, and it was found with his help. A few
months later, the Maison de la Reformation voted unanimously to offer the
model to Jerusalem on permanent
loan. Thus, more than 100 years after it was built, the model returned
home. It was restored at the Israel Museum and is on exhibit at the Tower
of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem - a unique addition to the wide range of exhibits in the museum.
The model of modern Jerusalem, located in the main
building of the municipality of Jerusalem,
is so realistic that by just looking at it, one can immediately locate a
particular street or even a specific building. Miniature life-like buses,
cars and trees give this Lilliputian image of a throbbing city an added
aura of reality. On this 1:500 scale model, even the height of the trees is
proportionate to the trees growing in Jerusalem.
"What motivated the creation of the model was the
intensification of development at the time of the unification of the city,
and the urgent need to preserve the many historical sites," explains
Kobi Ariel, director of the Jerusalem Center for Planning in Historic Cities, where the model is located.
"We have adopted the realistic approach in our model," he adds,
"because of the universal appeal of Jerusalem. In addition to the
spiritual, religious and historical interest our city evokes, we feel it is
also fascinating architecturally. Our model is intended primarily as a tool
for architects, developers and planners, as well as for those involved in
the municipal decision-making process. Architects with specific projects in
mind can try out their ideas on the model. With the help of the visual
feedback the model provides, what would normally take weeks or months of
abstract discussion often results in quick decisions."
The reason for this efficiency is the model's
flexibility. Modular in construction, each of its current 48 units is on
wheels and can be moved, taken apart, and thus continually updated. The
units represent seven square kilometers (2.7 square miles) of the city's
central business district, the government compound, Jerusalem's cultural mile and part
of the Old City. Currently the model is growing in all directions; soon it
will include the rest of the Old City, the Hebrew University campus at
Givat Ram, the Valley of the Cross and two major museums - the Israel
Museum and the Bible Lands Museum. The model was originally built by
American-born Richard Harvey with the help of students of architecture at
the Technion in Haifa; it took 15 years to complete. Now retired, Harvey
continues to be involved in the construction of additions to the model.
This model is an integral part of the Jerusalem Center for Planning in
Historic Cities, housed in the Jerusalem municipality complex. "The aim of the Center is to understand urban
problems and produce fitting solutions," says Ariel. "We focus on
cities with historic significance. Historic cities the world over share
similar problems of how to preserve and enhance the neighborhoods and
buildings of historical-cultural interest, while adapting to the exigencies
of modern living, like creating new residential areas, providing adequate
One of the principal aims of the Center is to become a
forum for local and international planners and designers, a place to meet
and exchange ideas. Visitors have included groups of experts, individual
professionals dealing with municipal problems and ministers of housing. In
addition, the International Mayors' Conference, meeting each year in Jerusalem, schedules one of its
sessions at the Center, viewing and discussing the model and its
application to the participants' own local realities.
Concurrently with its professional uses, the model also
functions as an educational tool. Creative workshops are meant to stimulate
school youngsters as well as adults to study urbanization and to help them
devise answers to imaginary and real problems in town planning. At the same
time, they become sensitized to the aesthetic aspects of such development.
This is particularly important given the great variety of cultural and
religious backgrounds of Jerusalem's inhabitants.
Through this model, 3,000-year-old Jerusalem can serve as a living
model for modern life in historic cities.