The Broad Wall is located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the remnant of a massive defensive wall originally erected during the First Temple Period (c.960BC-586BC) and excavated in the 1970s by archaeologist Nahman Avigal. The Broad Wall was an important archaeological discovery as up until that point the boundaries of Jerusalem during the biblical period were unsure.
Experts came to the conclusion that the Broad Wall was part of the ramparts of Israelite Jerusalem. The discovery of the wall helped to determine the size of Jerusalem during the First Temple Period. Prior to the discovery ancient Jerusalem was considered to have been much smaller. The wall's impressive breadth of 7 meters gives it its name – Broad Wall.
History of the Broad Wall
Archaeological experts date the construction back to the First Temple Era either during the reign of King Jehoiakim or King Hezekiah. The most widely accepted theory is that the Broad Wall was constructed in the 8th century BC during the rule of King Hezekiah to protect against attacks from the Assyrian Empire. This event is documented in the Bible in the books of Isaiah and Kings.
The western part of the wall was built on the remains of ancient houses which would have been outside the original city walls. This is in line with a biblical passage from Isaiah 22:10 when the prophet refers to King Hezekiah’s fortifications of Jerusalem:” …and ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem and the houses have ye broken to fortify the wall.”
In 701 BC the Assyrians invaded Palestine in order to expand their empire. Chronicles II 32:1 tells us that the Assyrian army was led by Sennacherib, son of Sargon II. An ancient Assyrian stele was found engraved with the history of Sennacherib’s invasion. It includes a description of how Hezekiah, King of Judah had built a new defensive wall to protect his city.
The stele inscription tells how Jerusalem had expanded beyond the perimeter of King David’s city and the new larger defensive wall was needed to protect the outer suburbs which had grown over the last 300 years. It was at this time that Hezekiah also constructed the Gihon tunnel and improved Jerusalem’s water system so that they would have a water supply even under siege. The Assyrians failed to capture Jerusalem and eventually returned to their home city.
The Broad Wall is referred to by name in the Book of Nehemiah. Many years after Hezekiah had constructed the wall Nehemiah returned from exile in Babylonia and had the city and the first phase of the Second Temple rebuilt using some of the First Temple walls and the broad wall. The Book of Nehemiah tells us that Hezekiah’s “Broad Wall” in the western section of the city was incorporated into Nehemiah’s new constructions (Nehemiah 3,8). This would have occurred in 516 BC.Many years later in the 1970s the Jewish Quarter was rebuilt once again following the Six Day War and excavations uncovered the ancient wall.
The Broad Wall Today
The wall would have originally measured 65 meters long; 8 meters high and 7 meters wide. Today 45 meters of the original wall are exposed and the wall continues west beneath the houses of the Jewish Quarter until HeYehudim Street. In places the exposed wall reaches a height of 3.3 meters while the rest of the wall is still unearthed.
Visitors to the site can see the wall from an open balcony that looks down on an archaeological garden beneath street level. Looking down between the houses of the Jewish Quarter you can see the rough stones that were stacked one on top of the other to form the wall. On the adjacent wall of a modern house lines have been placed to indicate the original street level and the estimated height of the original wall.
To visit the Broad Wall join Jerusalem Private Tour