Kishle - Turkish prison

About this place

The Kishle Center is located south of the Tower of David Museum along Jerusalem’s Old City walls near Jaffa Gate. Here you can see in-situ archaeological evidence from nearly every historical period. In this one location, layer after layer of Jerusalem history has been uncovered. In 1999 excavation began on the site. It took two years of careful excavation to reveal historical structures going back thousands of years.

The Layers of History at Kishle

Among the oldest archaeological findings at Kishle was the foundation of a wall built in the 8th-century BC by King Hezekiah to protect the city from attacking Assyrians. Part of a 2nd-century BC Hasmonean city wall was also discovered. Archaeologists uncovered sections of King Herod’s fortress dating back to the Second Temple period (516BC-70AD) and built on the remains of Hasmonean structures.

Among the finds were two large walls and a draining system channeling water out of the city. There was a man-made tunnel leading to the edge of the city that would have provided an escape route in times of siege or attack. The excavation took archaeologists 10-meters below ground where they discovered evidence of Jewish life during the Crusader era.

Several pools uncovered in the excavation are thought to have been dying vats used by Jews in the Middle Ages. In 1833-4 the Kishle compound was built as a military base and barracks under Egyptian ruler Ibrahim Pasha. “Kishle” was the Ottoman term for soldiers’ barracks. In 1841, power was transferred to the Turkish Ottomans and the structure became a prison and police station.

Kishle prison was later used during the British Mandate period (1918-1948) to hold Jewish resistance fighters struggling against British rule to establish an independent Jewish state. The Jewish resistance fighters held at Kishle prison left their mark by scratching the star of David and the outline of Israel on their cell walls.

Visiting Kishle Today

Today the Kishle Exhibition Gallery is part of the Tower of David Museum and celebrates 3,000 years of history. Visitors take a self-guided walk through the center. There are two audio-guide routes - Herod’s Palace and the Kishle, and A Bird’s Eye View of Jerusalem. There is a glass floor covering the original excavated archeological structures.

Multimedia digital technology is used to bring history to life and take visitors back in time by projecting images, sounds, and lights on the ancient structures. The center’s two levels provide an exhibition space where archaeological findings are displayed including reconstructions. An elevator ride up to the center’s rooftop observation deck will bring you back to the present time with views across Jerusalem.

To visit the site please book a Jerusalem Classical Private Tour.

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