JERUSALEM, Israel –The Tower of David Museum stands as a citadel guarding the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City. Some see it as one of the area’s crown jewels.
Museum Director Eilat Liber describes it as “the only museum in the world that tells the full story of Jerusalem."
While COVID has drastically reduced international tourism, the Tower of David is using the downtime for a major restoration project. This week, the museum broke ground for a new pavilion and welcome center.
With a new entrance and welcome center, the Tower of David Museum wants to increase the experience for millions of visitors to the most unique city in the world.
“Visitors will be able to enter the citadel from the west and enjoy the archeology and history and exit through the original Ottoman Gate of the citadel, straight into the streets of the Old City with the knowledge and experience from the Tower of David as the perfect introduction to Jerusalem," said Lieber.
This week's groundbreaking event marks the halfway point of a multi-million dollar restoration and conservation project. CBN News has followed this effort to modernize the museum, excavate ancient artifacts and conserve treasures like this tower built by King Herod during the time of Jesus. Now the focus becomes the new welcome center.
“What is coming is a piece of modern architecture that respects and blends in this very, very sensitive landscape of archeology," explained lead architect Eitan Kimmel.
"The idea is that this will function as the entry pavilion for a citadel that was never meant to be a museum. It was meant to hold people out, not to bring people in," he added.
The construction presented a daunting challenge. How do you dig more than 50 next to a 500-year-old wall without possibly causing a collapse?
“The engineering challenges were really unbelievable in its sensitivity and problematic because we are building a building next to a very, very important wall of the citadel, which is 10 meters high. We need to go seven, eight meters deep, and we need to make sure that nothing happens to this wall," said Kimmel.
The architect and his team met the challenge, installing a concrete wall and metal support beams.
Alongside the engineering comes the archaeology where many finds were examined in the laboratory.
“I would say it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dig the citadel, the last excavation conducted in the 1980s," said Noam Silverberg of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Notes and pictures taken by a British archaeologist more than 100-years-ago helped provide a guide to chronicling Jerusalem's 3,000-year history ranging from Ottoman-era smoking pipes to artifacts from the First Temple.
Those involved in the project feel a sense of history.
“It's really one of the most exciting projects that an architect can hope for to work in," said Kimmel, adding that the project makes history "accessible for everybody."
Lieber agrees says it's all about bringing together curators, designers, architects and archaeologists to "find the core of Jerusalem" and help people engage with the Holy City.
The completion of this project is expected by November 2022.
Why does Judaism matter and how is it connected to Christianity? Learn more here.