Can’t Make it to Israel? New Video Series Offers Virtual Tours of Biblical Jerusalem

June 8, 2020

4 min read

In 2019, the City of David welcomed a million visitors to ancient, Biblical Jerusalem. When travel to Jerusalem became impossible due to coronavirus restrictions, the City of David pivoted quickly. They began creating high-quality digital content, including virtual tours, events and information about new archaeological discoveries as early as mid-March.

On May 21, Ze’ev Orenstein, Director of International Affairs for the City of David, launched a special weekly video series. Each two-minute video focuses on a particular archeological discovery from the City of David and its Biblical significance. The series, called City of David: Bringing the Bible to Life, is expected to continue until the fall. 

Orenstein told Breaking Israel News, that the video series was intended initially, “to connect with the people I would normally be in contact with right now, either with them coming to the City of David or me traveling to the United States. And that’s not possible right now. So that was the impetus for the idea.

“But what we found is that it’s something that appeals more broadly as well. It’s the kind of content that is universal enough to appeal to anyone who has a love for Jerusalem, for history, for the Bible and seeing how they all come together.

“Also, in 2020, it seems that people have shorter attention spans, so to be able to give someone meaningful content about Jerusalem, about history, about archaeology, about the Bible and do it in under two minutes seems to be a recipe that is appealing to people,” Orenstein explained.

What he’s sharing on these weekly videos are topics he would normally cover when leading a tour, during which time he would have ample opportunity to elaborate on them. The challenge has been in sharing the information in a much shorter amount of time. “One of the challenges in making a video of this kind is, ‘How do you distill it into 90 seconds?’ What are the absolutely most critical pieces of information that you need to get across and then how can you say it in a way that will engage people from various backgrounds, ages and religions?” he said.

Biblical Accuracy

In each video, Biblical accuracy is primary. “For billions of people, the Bible is a book of faith. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, the Bible has impacted the lives of billions of people. Western civilization was largely influenced by the Biblical tradition, which came out of Jerusalem.

“This text, this document, this book has inspired us, and continues to inspire millions of people of all faiths around the world to see that it’s not just stories. It’s not simply a matter of faith. It’s a matter of facts. In the City of David, which is Biblical Jerusalem, the words of the Bible come to life. It’s real and you can see it; you can touch it. And that’s something very powerful,” Orenstein explained.

There is, of course, a darker motivation for the emphasis on Biblical accuracy. “Sadly, we’re living in a time where, whether it is at the United Nations, in bodies like UNESCO or amongst the Palestinian leadership, where the Biblical heritage of Jerusalem is being called into question and outright denied, saying that Jews, and, by extension, Christians, have no heritage in Jerusalem,” he noted. Orenstein’s videos provide archeological evidence to counter these specious claims. 

Are The Videos Enough?
Orenstein indicated that there is sufficient content for five or six months of weekly videos. By the time the entire series is released, “hopefully we’ll be able to have people come visit us again.  We will release a video once a week, highlighting a discovery connected to the City of David that affirms the Bible, and hopefully by the time the series is over, things will be somewhat back to normal. In the meantime, we’ve been able to allow all these people to maintain their connection to the City of David and to Jerusalem.”

Orenstein assured that, even if someone watches the whole series, there will still be plenty to gain from an in-person visit. “A person can watch the whole series, but won’t really have a full sense of what the City of David is all about. The best example I can give is to imagine if you took Shakespeare or some other great work and you read the Cliff Notes. You could kind of get a sense of what you’re looking at, some of the main themes, but the videos by themselves are not the same as actually going through the excavation, going through all the different things that were found there.

“[The videos are] literally taking a magnifying glass to a very, very specific part of the story, and telling that part of the story and that part of the story only. For a person who wants to get the full story, and also see how all the various parts of the story come together, you have to visit the site in person.”

Where Is Ancient Biblical Jerusalem?

Before travel restrictions were imposed as a result of COVID-19, the City of David was becoming an increasingly popular site for visitors to Jerusalem. And a main take-away message is that when the Bible talks about Jerusalem, “it is largely talking about the City of David, and the Biblical Mount Moriah, where the kings ruled and where the prophets spoke. That was the Jerusalem of the Bible,” Orenstein clarified.

Why then do so many people think of the Old City of Jerusalem as ancient Biblical Jerusalem? He explained it simply. When the City of David was first established, it was settled beside the Gihon Spring. In Biblical times, “If you want to live somewhere, you needed to live next to the water,” he shared.

By the time ancient Biblical Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, aqueducts, which allowed water to be brought from a distance away, had been invented. When Jerusalem was rebuilt, it was rebuilt in what we know today as the Old City. Orenstein calls it “uptown.

King David never walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. King David never put a note between the stones of the Western Wall. The Western Wall is from about 1000 years after King David.”

Upcoming videos will introduce viewers to the Citadel of Zion which is mentioned in II Samuel:

On that occasion David said, “Those who attack the Jebusites shall reach the water channel and [strike down] the lame and the blind, who are hateful to David.” That is why they say: “No one who is blind or lame may enter the House.” II Samuel 5:8

…the Gihon Spring, the location of King David’s palace, the location where King Solomon was anointed, the Pool of Siloam (Shiloach Pool), seals of Biblical figures and much more. 

Orenstein expects major Christian organizations will make the complete video series available to their members. In the interim, individuals can subscribe to the City of David YouTube channel to get notified when a new video is released.

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