The area includes several sites of archeological interest, notably Hezekiah's tunnel (a water supply system, where the Siloam inscription was found), Warren's shaft (an earlier water supply system), and the Pools of Siloam (the presently extant Byzantine-era pool, and the recently discovered Second Temple-period pool). All these water supply systems took their water from the Gihon Spring which lies on the eastern slope of Ophel, and is generally considered the original reason that the City was built at this location. In the 1999 book The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot Dr. Ernest L. Martin claims that Ophel was the location of the original Jewish temple, though this opinion is disputed by most archaeologists, as well as standing in stark contradiction to the tradition that the temple was located at or near the Dome of the Rock.
Ophel was once surrounded by a city wall; this wall has been discovered by the engineers of the Palestine Exploration Fund at the south-eastern angle of the temple area, 4 feet below the present surface level. Since the Books of Samuel credit David as the first Israelite ruler of the city on Ophel, the archaeological remains of the city are usually referred to by Jews as the City of David.
Ophel was considered part of Jerusalem until the 12th century AD, but after that point became regarded as a separate village (and was mentioned as such by al-Muqaddasi. In 1961 it was absorbed into the municipality of Jerusalem, though it still retains a largely detached character. The modern settlement there is known as Silwan, a corruption of the word Siloam, and has a population of roughly 40,000. In 1882, a Yemenite Jewish community moved into the village, but they were forced to flee during 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. The population of the place is now 40% Jewish and 60% Muslim.
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The Ophel, meaning fortified hill or risen area, is the biblical name given to a certain part of a settlement or city that is elevated from its surroundings. In the bible the Ophel refers to the elevation in two cities: the City of David in the Old City of Jerusalem, and at Samaria , the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Ernest L. Martin asserts the controversial claim in his book, "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot", that the Ophel Mound is the site of the First and Second Temples and what is called the Temple Mount today was in fact the Roman Fort Antonia.
Ophel, meaning hill/mound
is the name of the the long, narrow, rounded promontory beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount, with the Tyropoeon Valley on its west, the Hinnom valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east. The previously deep valley (the Tyropoeon) separating Ophel from what is now referred to as the Old City of Jerusalem currently lies hidden beneath the accumulated debris of centuries. Despite the name, the Old City of Jerusalem dates from a much later time than the settlement on Ophel, which is generally considered to have been the original Jerusalem; ironically Ophel lies outside the Old City walls.
The extensive excavations of the south-east corner of the Temple Mount, the Ophel, was begun in 1968. The steps leading up to the Hulda Gate which opened into the courtyard of the Second Temple.
The Ophel in Jerusalem
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