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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Water (and the Second Temple)

Did you know that in the time of the second Temple, there were two aqueducts bringing water to Jerusalem from the Hevron hills?

The upper aqueduct brought water to the "upper city" and the lower aqueduct brought water to the Temple Mount.

On Friday I attended the postponed tour about water, and I'm glad I did.

It might not sound interesting, but it was! Our guide, Eyal Davidson, who wrote an interesting tour book (currently available in Hebrew only), was excellent.

We began tracking the lower aqueduct at Armon HaNatsiv (near the Tayelet).

From there, we went to Mishkenot Sha'ananim, where we can see a section of the aqueduct that was covered with stone slabs to protect it. There aren't many sections like this anymore, since the stone slabs were often taken and reused in other building projects. Eyal showed us a picture from his book, drawn during the late 19th century from where we were standing in Mishkenot Sha'ananim, of a bridge that carried the water across the Gai Ben Hinnom valley.

Then we crossed over to the other side of Gai Ben Hinnom. We saw a section of the aqueduct that was cemented over by the Turks on Rehov Hativat Yerushalayim, the road leading from Derech Hevron up to Jaffa Gate. The Turks got tired of trying to protect the aqueduct, which was still in use, so they installed ceramic piping and then poured cement over the aqueducts.

We then walked up Kvish HaApifiore (the Pope's Street, so named because it was paved in honor of the Pope's visit), and saw sections of the "renovated" pipe line, including one section that "fell" down.

Then we climbed around the ruins behind the bus stop by by Sha'ar HaAshpot (Dung Gate) and saw where the aqueduct entered the Old City walls. We also saw Mikvaot from Second Temple times.

Then we entered the Old City and saw where the aqueduct reentered the city walls, by the main steps to the Kotel plaza (at the base of the steps leading up to the new Aish HaTorah building).

From there, we tracked the aqueduct to Wilson's Arch, below Sha'ar HaShalshelet, leading onto the Temple Mount. Sha'ar HaShalshelet is a Crusader entrance to the Temple Mount, built on top of the earlier Herodian gate. The aqueduct ran under the gate, then to the right, into a large well on the Temple Mount.

From Sha'ar HaShalshelet, we were able to glance onto the Temple Mount.... (so close, and yet so far away...)

Opposite the gate, is a Turkish Sabil (drinking water fountains), whose water source was from the aqueduct. There are several other Sabil's in the Muslim Quarter which also drew their water from the aqueduct. As well as a Hammam (Turkish Bath), which also had a Mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), which served the local, mainly Jewish population in that area during the 19th century.

Walking around the Mulsim streets, it is easy to forget that this area was once a Jewish neighborhood.

Both the upper and lower aqueducts were still in use, until the first modern pipes were laid, during the British Mandate, in Mahane Yehudah.


Post Script:

During Shabbat, Moshe's cousin and his wife, M & ZE, stopped by.

ZE told us that there are remnants of upper aqueduct on Derech Hevron, and remnants of the lower aqueduct on the hill opposite our window. We can actually walk along the ridge, alongside the aqueduct.

History is right here, just outside my window.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,

1 comment:

Batya said...

What a wonderful tour.
Jerusalem is amazing.
I didn't realize that early Machneh Yehuda had piped water. I thought it was all from wells. Maybe the water was piped into wells? My son's (rented) apartment was built pre-piped water, pre-electricity etc. The walls are "decorated" by wires and pipes, all installed in recent decades.