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In the heights

Climbing the walls at Jerusalem’s Tower of David

Ancient citadel museum opens up ropes course

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Walking across a hanging bridge in the Tower of David Museum ropes course, August 2021 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Walking across a hanging bridge in the Tower of David Museum ropes course, August 2021 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

The Phasael tower, an ancient pillar built by Herod, is now being used to hold up a 50-meter zip line suspended some 40 meters above the ground at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Phasael zip line, referred to in Hebrew as an omega, is the first of seven stations in Towers in the Air, this summer’s ropes adventure at the Tower of David, where visitors are soaring through the museum spaces.

Open throughout August as well as during the Jewish holiday season in September, the ropes course was dreamed up by Tamar Berliner, deputy director of the museum.

Berliner has produced many stunts and out-of-the-box ideas for the museum. this one comes with ongoing renovation limiting access to most of the museum’s permanent exhibit.

“People are looking for attractions and experiences in Israel this summer. They feel like they deserve something amazing,” said Berliner.

Two other stations include a jump off a wall to the ground below, about five or six meters down, and a shorter zip line that feels like a playground slide compared to the first trip in the air.

Walking across a hanging bridge in the Tower of David Museum ropes course, open in August 2021 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

“I stand there and watch kids who are so brave, they just jump off the wall,” said Berliner.

By the time participants reach the jump and final zipline, they’ve taken a harrowing walk across two hanging bridges, one made of narrow wooden planks hanging above the citadel’s moat, more than 40 meters high.

It’s not designed for those fearful of heights, but most participants were game for the challenge on a recent weekday afternoon, lining up to cross the hanging bridges and ride the zip lines.

The ropes course is open to ages 9 and up, and children through age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Only 50 people are able to enter every hour, and visitors must reserve a day and time before arriving at the museum — in closed shoes — for the NIS 100 per person adventure. Participants are fitted with helmets and full climbing gear.

Propelling on a zipline in the Tower of David Museum ropes course, open in August 2021 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Berliner did “a ton of research,” she said, before finding the right company to build a ropes park within the ancient Crusader walls.

“I think I met everyone in Israel who does this,” she said. “I needed someone whose style was like this — as in, ‘Sure, an omega? Why not?'”

The museum has set up other adventurous challenges in the past, including rappelling and a slack line, but not for the wider public.

“This has been my dream for many years,” said Berliner. “And now they’re doing it.”

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