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Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Solomon's Pools

Just upstream from Artas, Solomon's Pools are among the most attractive spots on the West Bank, thanks to water and trees. They are easily accessible and so could be developed into a major tourist attraction. They offer the opportunity for a good deal of amateur landscape sleuthing, too.

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The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 1

The eye learns to pick these things out, though they're easy to miss until you have an idea what you're looking for. Puzzled?

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 2

Here's another view: look at the bright trench in the foreground.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 3

An easy case. All these pictures are of channels that once brought water to or carried it onward from Solomon's Pools. They are of Roman vintage, despite the Biblical name.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 4

Late in the 19th century, the Turks modernized the system by replacing some of the open canals with clay pipe. Some of that pipe survives, such as this section north of Bethlehem. One might walk atop it for hundreds of yards without realizing what you were walking on, even though the nearly level grade is a giveaway. One such path forms Qana Road, approaching Bethlehem from the south. The road's name is a second hint, for it is cognate with "canal."

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 5

And here is the uppermost of Solomon's three pools, with the feeding channel in the foreground. Water once flowed through channels like this to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and in the time of Herod the Great straight east to Herodion, the hilltop on which Herod built a palace. For the trees, you can almost certainly thank the afforestation-minded British.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 6

The same pool, looking toward the downstream wall at a time when there was barely enough water to green up the floor.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 7

One of the lower pools.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 8

Until recently, the pools were badly treated, despite their amenity value.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 9

Litter accumulated--and it wasn't the only problem. Christian Palestinians stayed away because of harassment by Muslims.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 10

Spurred by preparations for Bethlehem 2000, the pools were hurriedly cleaned.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 11

The tanks were sealed.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 12

The stone blocks of the dams were repointed.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 13

The French paid for some new terraces and olive plantings.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 14

Another view.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 15

A Roman temple? Not quite: it's the shell of the British pumping station built about 1920 between the top two pools. For pictures of the rusting pumps, see the folder called British Palestine. The pools were used by the British to store water brought by pipeline from the ancient Roman springs at Arrub, and the pumps were used to push the water into pipelines to Jerusalem.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 16

The same pumping station, with the middle pool to the left.

The West Bank: Solomon's Pools picture 17

A few palms survive on seepage water. Perhaps they were introduced by the British, who came to palm-poor Palestine from palm-rich Egypt.


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