Ha’aretz reports on the political “garbage” associated with an effort to clean up Hezekiah’s Pool in the Old City of Jerusalem.
After years of neglect, Hezekiah’s Pool in the Old City of Jerusalem is finally being cleaned up. The work is being done by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Environmental Protection Ministry and Jerusalem Development Authority. As with anything in Jerusalem, the cleanup may cause a diplomatic crisis with Egypt and Jordan – and a conflict with the Waqf Muslim religious trust and the Coptic Church.
Hezekiah’s Pool, also known as the Pool of the Pillar, is located in the Christian Quarter, not far from Jaffa Gate. It is ancient and covers over three dunams (three-quarters of an acre ). But it is completely hidden from the public, with stores and homes surrounding it. Thousands of tourists coming through the gate and the Arab market pass right by it without having a clue that the historic site is nearby.
The pool was used at least from Second Temple times and was an important part of Jerusalem’s ancient water system until the 19th century.
However, over recent decades, the pool became an unofficial garbage dump for neighborhood residents, who used it to dispose of tons of trash.
In winter, water still collects there, and some Christian Quarter residents use parts of the ancient water system as an improvised sewage system.
Hezekiah’s Pool has turned into a serious health hazard in a densely populated area.
I think the last time I asked permission to go to the roof of the Petra Hotel to make a photo of Hezekiah’s Pool was in September, 2008. At that time the cleanup had already begun. The previous time I viewed the pool it was much more trashy. This pool is just a short distance from Jaffa Gate. Note the proximity of the Pool to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Lutheran Church tower.
The next photo provides more perspective. You can see the pool in the bottom of the photo. In the middle of the photo (top to bottom) you can see the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (left), the Lutheran Church tower (just right of center), and the Dome of the Rock (right). In the distance to the east is Mount Scopus (left) and the Mount of Olives.
Jerome Murphy-O’Connor describes Hezekiah’s Pool.
This great reservoir is entirely surrounded by buildings, and is accessible through the Coptic Khan…. At present the dry pool is used as a rubbish dump by the dwellings which surround it on all sides, but a much needed restoration project is on the drawing board. — The Holy Land
Murphy-O’Connor says the pool “is thought to date from the Herodian period when it was fed by an aqueduct (visible outside Jaffa Gate) coming from Mamilla Pool.” He says Josephus mentions the pool under the name Amygdalon (Almond Tree) (War 5:468). He says this name, Amygdalon, is probably a deformation o f the Hebrew migdal (tower). The reference is to the towers of Herod’s palace.
Israel Antiquities Authority announced in February, 2010, the discovery of the high-level aqueduct that brought water into Hezekiah’s Pool in the Roman City of Jerusalem. See our earlier comments here.
P.S. You know the pool has nothing to do with Hezekiah, don’t you?
HT: Joseph Lauer