It is a place rich in history. For centuries it guarded the Western entrance to Jerusalem. It was built at this specific location because it was considered the weak link in the city's defense.
Not only do many tourists regularly pass it by, but many Israelis do not know of its existence. The place is the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, also known as the Citadel. It doesn't just tell the story of the history of Jerusalem; it is history. It is also a very beautiful site for a museum.
According to its former director, Shosh Yaniv, the museum is the place where Jerusalem begins. It is a unique blend of modern exhibits housed in the former guardrooms of an impressive stone structure located atop the Mount Zion ridge at the entrance to the Old City.
Yaniv said, “So many tourists get their picture taken here, they walk through the Jaffa Gate and never know that there is a museum inside and they walk right by. In fact, many Israelis are shocked, they come in and they say, since when has this been here?”
The museum was a project of the Jerusalem Foundation, and the main donor at the time of its creation was the Clore Foundation of the UK.
In 1999, the museum hosted a popular exhibition, “Chihuly In the Light of Jerusalem 2000,” featuring work by world-renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly. Yaniv noted that like all good things in life, the exhibition came about by accident. Chihuly was in Israel for less than 24 hours. He came to attend a memorial service for Izzika Gaon, who was a former General Curator at the Israel Museum and later its Design Curator. Chihuly visited the Tower of David Museum and met with Yaniv, and the idea for the special exhibition was born.
The museum is now offering a virtual reality tour of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. “Step into History,” offers visitors a chance to “walk in the streets of Jerusalem and enjoy the present and take a look back to the past,” said Tower of David Museum director Eilat Lieber.
Lithodomos VR has created 360-degree simulations of how Jerusalem’s citadel, palaces, streets, and ancient Jewish temple are believed to have appeared during the reign of King Herod in the first century B.C.E. and during the life of Jesus. The narrated tour takes approximately two hours.
The museum also houses an innovation lab that hosts startups such as Lithodomos VR, which is developing technologies to enhance the visitor experience.
In 2023, the museum reopened after being updated and renovated with more modern exhibits that tell the story of the citadel and the city with artifacts and videos.
The museum offers a variety of educational and special programs, which are available in a number of languages. Special events may also be held at the museum.
An elaborate light show known as the Jerusalem Night Spectacular is also produced by the museum. The outdoor show involves the projection of images on the walls of the citadel that tell the story of the city’s history. The museum has also added a second sound and light show about the story of King David. Both shows run for approximately 45 minutes and there is an entrance fee.
The museum is located inside the Jaffa Gate; parking is available nearby. Bus lines from Jerusalem's central bus station include 1, 6, 13A, and 20.
E-mail: [email protected]
Call Center *2884
E-mail: [email protected]
Hours: Sunday 12:00-20:00
Monday - Thursday, Saturday and Jewish Holidays 9:00-17:00
Friday and the night before Jewish Holidays 9:00-14:00
Check the Museum website for current hours and fees.
Sources: Copyright Text © 2000 Gems in Israel. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission.
Tower of David Museum.
“Virtual Reality Tour Brings Biblical-Era Jerusalem to Life,” AP, (September 5, 2018).
Photo: © Mitchell Bard.