Jerusalem’s Citadel, also known as the ”Tower of David”, is located within the Old City and possesses great historical and cultural significance. Serving as the symbol of the city of Jerusalem for generations, the tower provides an incredible view of the city, a museum that takes visitors through the history of the area, and a calendar of events offered to the public every month.
By showcasing a history that stretches back thousands of years along with a nighttime celebration of sight and sound, the Citadel and the Tower of David Museum has something for both residents and tourists. The historical and cultural significance of the location is still being discovered and created to this day, which underscores the monumentous nature of the site.
Millennia of History
Located near the Jaffa Gate on the west side of the Old City of Jerusalem, the citadel that exists today dates back to the 14th century and is not associated with King David at all. The site is a medieval fortress with architectural additions from later periods, but the tower fortifications were first built in 37–34 BC. A few centuries later it became known as the “Tower of David” when visitors mistakenly identified the hill as Mount Zion. After being taken over, damaged and refurbished over the centuries, the Citadel was thoroughly destroyed in 1260. In 1310 the Citadel was rebuilt, and much of that effort can be seen in the present site.
For 400 years, the Citadel served as a garrison for Turkish troops. One of the minaret’s installed in the 19th century even took the name of “Tower of David”, which means the title can refer to that minaret individually or the entire Citadel. During the period of the British Mandate (1917–1948), the site was transitioned into a public venue for concerts, benefit events and exhibitions by local artists. In 1948 it was converted back to a military position, but was then repositioned as a cultural icon after the Six-Day war in 1967.
Inside the Citadel is the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, opened in 1989. It is spread out across a number of locations throughout the Citadel, depicting 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. The site showcases a history beginning with the first evidence of a city in Jerusalem in the second millennium BCE, until the city became the capital of the State of Israel. It explains and explores why the city and location are significant to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The history, culture and archeology on display at the Citadel and within the museum are just part of the significance visitors are able to experience though.
A One-of-a-Kind Look at Jerusalem
Walking through figurative and literal history of Jerusalem is an experience like no other. The ruins of the Citadel provide visitors with a real sense of how important this place was throughout the last few hundred years, and excavation efforts further illustrate that point.
This archeology that showcases this importance is supported by the representations and documentation of what happened in the area and to the city of Jerusalem as a whole over this entire time period. Models give viewers a sense of place and scale, while a variety of replicas provide a sense of the city’s history and culture.
The panoramic view that you can get of the entire city from the Citadel illustrates the power and prominence of the site like no other. Visitors can ascend the ramparts of the walls of Jerusalem at different places throughout the city, but the Citadel is the only place where viewers can get a look at every side of the city.
There’s history all over Jerusalem, in the streets, buildings, shops and even the people. It’s a history that isn’t always glaringly evident or obvious though, which is why the experience that’s been enabled at the Citadel is so critical. This effort has enabled viewers to be able to connect with the past and present of the city, and it’s not something that happens anywhere else, despite a history that is so obviously pervasive. Showcasing history and culture in this manner is just part of what makes the experience so memorable and unique, as well as providing such a draw.
This sense of history has proven to be an especially attractive element for both residents and tourists, and that has enabled an important economic and cultural impact for the Citadel and the entire city.
A Draw for People Across the City and the World
The Tower of David Museum has created games and apps for children, families and visitors that are designed to make the user experience especially unique. Coupled with the benefit events, craft shows, concerts, and light and sound performances, there’s a reason for people across the city and world to visit the site.
Those sound and light performances are centered on the Night Spectacular event, which is a celebration of light and sound. Amidst the archaeological remains in the Citadel’s courtyard and to the sound of original music, the story of Jerusalem unfolds through virtual reality images. Innovative techniques and a sophisticated computer system operate 20 projectors, 10 video players, 14 computers and 14 loudspeakers to create a show that is designed for everyone to enjoy. Similar to other monuments, it makes it so that visitors can enjoy the monument in much different ways during the day and at night.
The cultural impact of the experience is clearly significant, but the economic one is real as well. Combination tickets to the museum and Night Spectacular are available, although they can also be purchased separately. A number of souvenirs and products are also available for purchase at the location, as well as online.
Millions of people have visited the Citadel and museum because of the experience they can have in both, and they keep coming back because the exhibits and events being held there for the public are always changing. This evolution is indicative of the Citadel and museum themselves, and provides a great sense of what it means to create something that goes beyond the history of the past or economics of the present to create a legacy.
Celebrating the Past and Future of Jerusalem
Monuments like the Citadel utilize a history that is distinct for the region, and even unique to the city. It’s simply not possible to create something that has the historical and cultural significance of the Citadel if either of these things don’t already exist.
However, the experience that has been created at the Citadel takes advantages of the opportunities that the location presents, and that’s not something other locations or sites with a similar history have been able to accomplish. The site provided a unique opportunity to create something monumentous for both residents and tourists, and that’s exactly what’s been enabled here.
By making a conscious effort to preserve the past in the museum and celebrate the present with the Night Spectacular, visitors have a real sense of what this place has and continues to mean to the city and region. More than anything else, this sense of legacy that the Citadel has created and celebrates is what makes the location so special and significant.