A modern revival for ancient West Bank reservoirs

For 2,000 years, water flowed from three massive reservoirs south of Bethlehem to the center of Jerusalem. Today, these Solomon’s Pools lie dormant, the ruins of an engineering marvel. But a U.S. project hopes to revitalize the pools and turn them into a West Bank tourist site.

“The project is about more than just protecting history,” said U.S. Consul General Donald Blome at an October event to launch the conservation project. “It’s about protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people living here today.”

Currently only one of the pools is full. A $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State and the consulate would bring the ancient water system to its former glory. Funds are designated to make emergency repairs, protect the canals between the pools and create safe walking paths for visitors.

History flows deep in Solomon’s Pools. While the name refers to the biblical King Solomon, the first pool was likely constructed in the first or second century BCE, during the Second Temple Period of Jerusalem. In the 1600s, an Ottoman fort at the reservoir protected the city’s water supply. It was also a staging post on the hajj route to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Most of the funding for the conservation project comes from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

“We share the hope that this site can be a source of pride, hope and discovery for people of every culture, religion and background. Places of this sort of antiquity should stir and inspire all of us to come together and celebrate their beauty,” Blome said.

Revival of  the pools

Two men standing above Solomon's Pools in Bethlehem (Musa al Shaer/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Blome (left), U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, kicks off a preservation project for Solomon’s Pools. (Musa al Shaer/AFP via Getty Images)

Restoring the pools could help area Palestinian communities flourish. Economic empowerment of Palestinians is a pillar of U.S. support for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Water has always been a part of the human story for residents of the arid hills around Jerusalem. Solomon’s Pools are a monument, a tribute to that story. “It is our duty to protect and restore it,” said George Bassous, the general manager of Solomon’s Pools.