Solomon's Pools (Arabic: بركة السلطان سليمان القانوني, Birkat as-Sultan Suleiman al-Kanuni; Hebrew: בריכות שלמה, Breichot Shlomo) are located in the south-central West Bank, immediately to the south of the Palestinian village of al-Khader and about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) southwest of Bethlehem.
The pools consist of three open cisterns, each rectilinear pool with a 6 metres (20 ft) drop to the next, fed from an underground spring. With each pool being over 100 metres (330 ft) long, 65 metres (213 ft) wide and 10 metres (33 ft) deep, the total water capacity is approximately 200,000,000 litres (53,000,000 US gal). Consequently the pools have played a significant role in the area's water supply for centuries.
Three pools surrounded by pine trees are located five km (3.1 miles) south of Bethlehem on the road to Hebron and have been attributed to the prosperous period of King Solomon (950 BC) as mentioned in the Book of Ecclesiastics. "I made me great works; I built me houses, and planted vineyards; I made gardens and orchards, and set them with trees of all kinds; and I made me ponds of water to water therewith the wood of the young trees". King Solomon the Wise, as mentioned in the Bible, constructed these pools for his wives, reportedly one thousand in number, so that they could bathe here.
These pools were part of an ancient waterway supplying water to Jerusalem. They were repaired by Pontius Pilate. Herod the Great (30 B.C.) had water carried by aqueduct from here to Herodion and probably to Jerusalem. Under the Turks, water from these pools reached Jerusalem by a four-inch clay pipe laid in 1902. Below the second pool are the pump station and pipes that took the water to the old city in Jerusalem. These pipelines replace two ancient aqueducts, the course of which can be traced on the way to Jerusalem. There is no doubt that both the Romans and Saracens made use of them and it is possible that the Roman reservoirs were enlargements or restorations of pools originally prepared by King Solomon. Today, this water is only used by inhabitants in the immediate vicinity.
The three large reservoirs, following each other in line, at a distance of 50 m. from each other, are partly excavated from the rock and partly built; they are intended to collect the rainwater that descends from the overlooking hills and the water of the springs of the surrounding countryside. The length, width and depth of the three pools are respectively in meters: 179x64x15, 124x70x12 and 116x70x8. Near the Upper Pool stands a small Turkish castle, El Burak. It is a fortified khan of the 17th century now in a rather dilapidated condition. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1617. This rectangular fortress, flanked by a square tower at each of its angles and furnished with battlements, was built as barracks for the Turkish soldiers selected to guard the Pools of Solomon and the commercial caravans between Jerusalem and Hebron. Today, a private development is transforming the fortress to house an amphitheatre and building an arts and crafts village. A tourist village is being built on Solomon's Pool grounds, which include a museum, hotel, convention center and an amphitheater.
They are named after the Biblical Solomon, stemming from a legend of Solomon using the waters and gardens as in Ecclesiastes 2.6, where Solomon is recorded as saying "I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees". However, recent evidence suggests that the lowest pool was probably constructed during the Maccabean period at the time of the reconstruction of the temple at Jerusalem (circa 2[dubious ] BCE).
A second phase occurred when ancient Roman Pontius Pilate built 39 kilometres (24 mi) of aqueduct from the collection pools at Arrub. Roman engineering under Herod the Great in connection with his improvements to the Second Temple created the underground tunnel feeding the upper pool.
The pools provide water for an aqueduct system supplying Bethlehem and for the population of Jerusalem where the aqueduct terminated under the Temple Mount and separated from its neighbour by 50 metres (160 ft) and each pool is 6 metres (20 ft) lower than that above it, the conduits being so arranged that the lowest, which is the largest and finest of the three, is filled first, and then in succession the others. It has been estimated that these pools cover about 7 acres (28,000 m2).
The pools are fed by four different springs; the most prominent is Ein-Atan or Etam at the head of the Wadi Urtas, called "the sealed fountain," about 200 metres (660 ft) to the north-west of the upper pool. The spring water is transferred to the upper pool by a large subterranean passage.
The water system as a whole shows a high degree of sophistication. Five different aqueducts, totalling nearly 60 kilometres in length, were linked to Solomon's Pools. From the lower pool an aqueduct has been traced carrying the water through Bethlehem and across the valley of Gihon, and along the west slope of the Tyropoeon valley, till it finds its way into the great cisterns underneath the temple hill in Jerusalem.
- Present day
The water, however, from the pools now reaches only to Bethlehem. The aqueduct beyond this has been destroyed. Two of the aqueducts connected to additional water sources from the south; another, from the upper pool, carried water east to the Herodium where Herod had constructed a large recreational pool, lined with columns; and two aqueducts brought water to Jerusalem.
The area around Solomon's Pools has provided a pleasant atmosphere for picnics and relaxation over the centuries. On the north side at the entry to the park is an old Ottoman fort structure, built in 1620, which is known as Qal'at el-Burak or the castle of the pools. This has served at times as a caravansery (or khan - a resting place for caravans), and now has a restaurant with a garden area inside.
- Flavius, Josephus Antiquities 8:186
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-923666-6 p 483
- Bussow, 2011, pp. 497, 536
- Bromiley Geoffrey W (1995). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-3782-4 p 1025
- Bromiley Geoffrey W (1995). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-3782-4
- Bussow, Johann (2011). Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872-1908. BRILL. ISBN 9004205691.
- Flavius, Josephus Antiquities
- Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-923666-6
Sawsan and Qustandi Shomali. A Guide to Bethlehem and its Surroundings. Flamm Druck, Wagener GMBH, Waldbrol
- Media related to Solomon's Pools at Wikimedia Commons