Solomon's Pools between Efrat & Bethlehem

Yesterday, observers documented a Palestinian-owned tractor paving and quarrying at the “Solomon’s Pools” archaeological site located in Gush Etzion. Often referred to as "Solomon’s Pools," this ancient water reservoir complex consists of three pools that date back over 2,000 years ago during the Second Temple period. These pools were ingeniously constructed to facilitate the transfer of water from the Gush Etzion region to Jerusalem using aqueducts.

The site's location places it just within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, specifically in the southern portion of the village of Al-Khadr, which lies to the south of Bethlehem. Thus, any access to this location necessitates coordination with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). While the site is not under Israeli jurisdiction, it holds immense historical significance not just for the global community, but is of particular importance to the Jewish people.

Spanning 170 meters, the central pool at this archaeological site reaches depths of approximately 16 meters. Until 1971, local inhabitants harnessed these waters for agricultural purposes and water distribution. Furthermore, these pools supplied water to East Jerusalem until the events of the Six Day War.

The volume of water contained within the trio of reservoirs is vast, with estimates suggesting they can hold around 288 thousand cubic meters. In an effort to restore and preserve this ancient site, British Mandate authorities in 1924 embarked on a restoration initiative, entrusting the task to a religious work team led by Rabbi Yeshayahu Shapira.

According to data from the Kfar Etzion Field School, a mapping error during the Oslo Accords inadvertently shifted control of the pools and their surrounding territory from Israeli-governed Area C to Area A, placing them under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Nevertheless, with adequate military coordination, interested parties can still visit and appreciate this historical marvel.

Given the site's unparalleled historical significance, it has unfortunately become a point of contention. Attorney Michael Shaferber, a local activist residing in Efrat, has dedicated considerable time monitoring the Palestinian influence in these areas. In a conversation with “Makor Rishon” journalists, Shaferber voiced his concerns: "The quarrying activities are inching ever closer to the archaeological compound. Now, the excavation edges towards the pools themselves."

Shaferber further elaborated that the area currently being excavated by the tractor is historically significant, once housing the ancient aqueduct that channeled water from the region until 1967. He lamented that this wasn't an isolated incident but rather a trend, noting, "Over the years, significant portions of the aqueduct, stretching from El Arov through Bethlehem and onward to Jerusalem, have been dismantled." This raises urgent questions about the preservation of historically significant sites amidst geopolitical tensions.

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