The Western Wall gets all the attention, but only a couple minutes' walk away is another wall, significantly older and arguably of greater historical (if not spiritual) significance. This is the Broad Wall, also known as Hezekiah's Wall. Though its ruins run beneath much of the modern Old City, a large portion has been excavated in a location immediately adjacent to the Jewish Quarter's central square (to the left side if heading towards the Western Wall).
This mighty wall, twenty feet thick and ten feet high in places, was commissioned by King Hezekiah of the Kingdom of Judah in the eighth century BCE, part of an ambitious plan to bolster the city's defenses in the wake of the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel (the plan also included the carving of a new underground shaft to the Pool of Siloam, Jerusalem's main water source, which can also still be seen today within the Warren's Shaft excavations). Hezekiah's plan seems to have worked well enough: with the new wall completed and easy access to water, Jerusalem was able to withstand the armies of Sennacherib even as the countryside was ravaged - though Assyrian and Jewish accounts of the matter are quite different. The Bible claims an angel struck down tens of thousands of Assyrian troops as they camped outside the city and forced the army's retreat; Sennacherib recalled that his siege of Jerusalem kept Hezekiah "trapped like a bird," and it was only through the payment of massive piles of tribute that the Assyrians withdrew. Whatever the truth of the matter, the construction of the wall certainly attracted local controversy.
The prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah's contemporary, raged at the king: "You counted the houses of Jerusalem and tore them down to fortify the wall!" (Fascinatingly, it is plain to see at the current Broad Wall site that the prophet was not exaggerating: the wall stands on the foundations of destroyed houses). Nehemiah, a returnee from Babylon who oversaw the reconstruction of Jerusalem after it was razed by the Babylonians, recounts how a team of laborers repaired the city "as far as the Broad Wall." The Broad Wall also served as definitive archaeological evidence that by the mid-First Temple Period, the settled areas of the city of Jerusalem had expanded to what is now the Old City, and were not, as previously thought, still limited entirely to the Ophel.
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