It’s been 30 years since the Tower of David Museum opened its doors as an ancient portal to Jerusalem’s Old City. Now the historic citadel is in the final throes of planning a $30 million renovation, intended to be completed in five years.
The goal of the renovation is to create a more seamless transition from east to west, leading from the new city of Jerusalem into the Old City, directly into the museum that is situated just inside Jaffa Gate, one of the major entries into the historic site.
“We’ve been thinking about what is the task of the museum,” said Eilat Lieber, the museum director. “It will always be a monumental site of the Old City, a symbol. But as an institution, we have to think about what we want for future generations. We’re a pathway from west to east, and we want it to be a smoother transition.”
The upgrade will change the flow into the museum, with a new entrance complex from the western side of the citadel, now used as the exit from the museum, and connected to the outdoor Mamilla mall through the ancient Byzantine bathhouses under Jaffa Gate.
The excavations were carried out 20 years ago, and show the timeline of Jerusalem from a wall from the period of King Hezekiah during the First Temple period (800 BCE), the foundations of King Herod’s palace and water system from 2,000 years ago, Crusader-era pools and the Ottoman city walls of Jerusalem through modern times.
The entire excavation has been neglected until now, said Lieber, who has been the director at the Tower of David for nearly five years.
When the Tower of David Museum opened 30 years ago, the Western Wall Tunnels and the City of David archaeological site weren’t open yet, pointed out Lieber. The task of the museum has changed, she said, as well as its role as a “monumental site” of the Old City.
“Jerusalem has changed,” said Lieber. “What’s the right message when considering the history of Jerusalem?”
The renewal project is expected to double the area of the museum from 7,895 square meters to 15,000 square meters with the permanent exhibition area doubling to almost 4,000 square meters.
With the renovation, the museum will also gain a glassed-in entrance with a ticket office and coatroom, a cafe and public bathrooms.
“It’s been disorienting until now,” said Lieber. “You go from Mamilla to Jaffa Gate, and there’s the shuk and juice vendors and hummus. It’s hard to know where to go. We wanted better bathrooms and a better welcome for tourists.”
The $30 million project is being financed primarily by the Clore Foundation, which will be giving the majority of the funding, said Lieber, with the rest from the government, Tourism Ministry and Jerusalem Foundation.
The renovated museum is slated to open in 2022, but will remain open throughout the process.