In a time when it’s hard to focus on the future as the present seems so uncertain, the Tower of David Museum is proud to announce the start of one of the largest conservation projects in Israel, with work underway for a $40 million renewal plan led by the Clore Israel Foundation together with the support of the City of Jerusalem, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. The Israel Antiquities Authority is supervising the archaeological excavations and conservation of the project.
The Renewal and Conservation Project of the Tower of David Museum will preserve and conserve the historic citadel and archaeological park while doubling the current area of the museum to 20,000 sq. meters (over 215,000 sq. feet) with a new sunken entrance visitor center, café, additional public bathrooms as well as 7 new galleries, additional exhibition spaces and two elevators making the ancient citadel accessible to all. Archaeological excavations will be reimagined into additional new spaces. The history of Jerusalem will be brought to life through the stones found showing Jerusalem’s timeline in the “Kishle” archaeological site which by a multi-sensory experience.
Significant Roman-Byzantine excavations were discovered below the Jaffa Gate Plaza, the ancient entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, and left abandoned for over a decade. The entire area has been annexed to the museum. A new educational complex of offices, classrooms, and an auditorium will be constructed in this area and become the Educational Wing. A promenade lined with the archaeological findings from this site will take visitors from the new museum entrance to the educational complex and will also link to the car parks beneath the Mamilla Shopping Mall, across the street.
Throughout the next two years, the Tower of David Museum will remain open for the general public (within the guidelines of the Ministry of Health) with temporary exhibitions, with guided tours of the history, the communities, and the archaeology of Jerusalem, as well as cultural activities.
The Tower of David Museum tells Jerusalem’s full story and as a universal symbol of the city, it holds a place in the hearts of all. The museum has initiated a capital campaign to complete the renewal project.
At the same time, the Tower of David Museum continues to raise working capital to ensure that, even during the renewal project and through this crisis pandemic, the story of Jerusalem continues to be told. Last year, over 500,000 people visited the Museum, generating income for 80% of the Museum’s budget. In normal times this is an enviable record that few if any museums can match. But these are not normal times.
“I am navigating between the excitement of building for the future and the concern about paying for today: providing salaries for our staff, planning for the future for our team that is on furlough, and trying to create content with a next-to-nothing budget,” says Museum director Eilat Lieber.
The shutdown cut the Museum’s income to zero, forcing the furlough of 85% of the working staff. Despite this, a small team is still creating live and virtual programming from the heart of Jerusalem for Israelis and visitors the world over. The Museum has petitioned the government of Israel including the Ministry of Culture for support and is continuing to raise funds to guarantee the continuing operation of this Jerusalem landmark.
Eilat Liebernoted: “I am humbled and proud to be part of the renewal of the Tower of David Museum, the very symbol of Jerusalem. Despite the current crisis and the aura of uncertainty, I see this project as affirming the vibrant future, innovation, and resilience inherent in the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem touches millions of people throughout the world and I am aware of the huge responsibility of telling that story to future generations. As we cope with this social and economic crisis, we are grateful for this unique opportunity to physically preserve the walls and towers of this ancient site, to develop new and creative programming, and to find innovative technological solutions for millions of future visitors to Jerusalem from Israel and around the world.”
Dame Vivien Duffield, Chairman, Clore Israel Foundation, said: “The Tower of David Museum is a flagship project of my Foundation and my involvement with it goes back over 40 years to its very beginnings. Mayor Teddy Kollek and I labored and fought for the museum for twelve exhilarating years, and the creation of a state-of-the-art museum out of a historic ruin has been a memorable experience. I would like to believe that Teddy is looking down on it from above with approval and that its success would have given him great nachas. It is with much pride and pleasure that I now join in this announcement concerning the upgrade of the Museum, the planning of which has been a long and often challenging journey. I extend my best wishes to Mayor Moshe Lion and the Directors and staff of the Museum on this exciting new chapter in the Museum’s story. The upgraded Museum will continue to present the chronological, multi-faceted, pluralistic, history of Jerusalem, but in a new and fascinating way. I know this impressive Museum will be appreciated by many people for generations to come, as it has been appreciated by so many visitors since its very beginning.”
Mayor of the city of Jerusalem, Mr. Moshe Lion, said: “The Jerusalem municipality is pleased and honored to lead the restoration and renovation project of Jerusalem’s citadel, the Tower of David, a symbol of the city through the ages and one of the most important historic and archaeological heritage sites in the world. The Tower of David, located at the Jaffa Gate, provides a link connecting the Old City of Jerusalem to the new city; and its renovation benefits the entire urban landscape for all lovers of Jerusalem and visitors from Israel and around the world.”
Minister of Jerusalem and Heritage, Rafi Peretz, said: “We are pleased to be a leading partner in the renewal project at the citadel, the Tower of David, a site symbolizing the historic timeline of Jerusalem from the First Temple Period until the present. It is a great honor for me to reveal the historical heritage hidden within the stones of Jerusalem and make it accessible for future generations. In this place, a connection is made between the Israeli public and the tourists, who will return to the city and our ancient history.”
Minister of Tourism, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, said: “The Tower of David, known by almost every tourist, is one of the most beautiful and significant tourist sites in Israel. The renovation project, taking advantage of the current tourism climate, continues efforts to upgrade and improve the infrastructure in anticipation of the return of tourists. We are happy to have the opportunity to participate in the Tower of David renewal project for the benefit of the museum and of us all. In addition to being Minister of Tourism, I am a resident of Jerusalem and see the great importance in the restoration and accessibility of the historical and cultural treasures of Israel.”
Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archaeologist, Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “The extensive renovations at the Tower of David are an unusual opportunity for us archaeologists to re-examine and learn more about one of the symbols of Jerusalem. During the renovations, we have so far discovered ancient fortifications, hidden passageways, previously unknown rooms, and more. We are integrating precise scientific research with advanced technology in the course of our investigation. The story of the Citadel continues to be revealed in front of our eyes and will be presented to the public within the framework of the new museum.”