Near the Jaffa Gate, the main gate into Jerusalem for the past thousands of years, you will find the Citadel of David which is the only museum in the world that tells the story of the city since the days of King David.
The Tower of David has several attractions to choose from: panoramic views, a historical track that presents the city via diverse illustrative techniques and an archaeological track.
There is an inscription in Arabic above the Ottoman entrance describing the rebuilding of the Citadel in 1538 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the man who built of the current walls of Jerusalem.
As you enter the gate you can see the impressive moat that looks as though it was taken out of a scene from a movie.
In the entrance hall, you will see a glass statue hanging on the dome above, a remnant from one of the most popular exhibitions in Israel and in the world, that of renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, which was held here between 1999 and 2001. About one million people visited the museum when the exhibition was on!
We will go through the door on the right and up to the roof for a beautiful panoramic view. On the floor below the roof there is a short animated movie about the history of the city. The movie is amusing and very good, and enables you to catch 3,000 years of history in 10 minutes.
If you look East from the observation point on the roof, you can see the Old City with all its quarters, the Temple Mount with its sites, the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus, an amazing view that should not be missed. If you look to the West, you will see the new part of the city, Mishkenot Sha'ananim (which means Tranquil Abode), the King David Hotel, Safra Square and more.
Coming down from the roof, you enter the first room, which exhibits the period of the First Temple, tells of the conquest of Jerusalem in King David’s day and ends with the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile.
Each room in the museum has a timeline which tells the history of the city in the specific period of that room, and you therefore have a chronological tour from room to room, from period to period, from the days of King David.
Note the room with 3 dimensional holograms of the First Temple. Moving your head to the left or to the right will divulge different angles of the Temple on the Temple Mount and you will see it as King Solomon saw it.
The next room is about Jerusalem in the days of the 2nd Temple and there is an impressive model of the Temple Mount in its days of glory that includes the Temple, which was built in the days of King Herod. As you come out of the room, you will see a bronze statue of David (a reproduction), a present from the city of Florence in honor of the 3000th birthday that Jerusalem celebrated in 1996.
In the room about the Muslim period, the museum founders were extremely creative, building the room inside an authentic mosque as it once was. The mosque’s pulpit (minbar) and alcove (mahrab), facing in the direction of Mecca like in all mosques, are absolutely authentic. The mosque’s minaret that majestically stands out above the citadel has become the symbol of Jerusalem in many photos and postcards.
Some mistakenly believe that it can be ascribed to King David who, it seems, never even came to see this area. The model of the 7th century Dome of the Rock is also very impressive.
The next room is the Crusader room with 4 statues of knights, one from each Crusader monastic order, the Templars, the Hospitallers, the Lepers and the Teutonics.
At the entrance to the next room, there are statues of the Mamluk warriors. Mamluk is an Arabic word meaning slave. The Mamluks were young children who had been kidnapped and taken by the Mongols to Egypt where they became slave warriors.
They eventually became the new power in the Middle East and they conquered Jerusalem in the 12th century. The Mamluks built many of the religious buildings that still exist today on the Temple Mount and in the area.
In the last room, there is a short movie that can be seen on 9 television screens, which tells the story of the British Mandate period in Israel, from 1917 until the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948.
Those who are quick on the uptake will recognize Haim Weizmann, who was the first President of Israel, Rabbi Kook, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and many others who were in Jerusalem at the time.
In the basement of the Citadel, you can visit Stephan Illes’ zinc model of Jerusalem which is a wonderful reproduction of Jerusalem in the mid-19th century, including Mishkenot Sha'ananim (Jerusalem’s first neighborhood), the Russian Compound, and the Old City. Note the telegraph wires.
Don’t miss this model!
It is recommended that you take at least 2 hours for the tour of the Citadel in order to to see everything the site has to offer. The Tower of David and the nearby Jaffa Gate, which has been the entrance gate to the city for the past 2000 years, are a must for anybody visiting Jerusalem.