Located in the southern central West Bank of southwest Bethlehem, Solomon’s Pools were three reservoirs of water, established in 950 B.C during the time of Prophet Solomon.
The pools were divided into 3 cisterns- upper pool, middle pool and lower pool. The three open cisterns, each rectilinear pool with a 6 metres drop to the next, fed from an underground spring. With each pool being over 100 metres long, 65 metres wide and 10 metres deep, the total water capacity was approximately 200,000,000 litres. Consequently the pools played a significant role in the area’s water supply for centuries. They were erroneously named after the Biblical Solomon, stemming from a legend of Solomon using the waters and gardens as in Ecclesiastes 2.6. The 177 meters long lower pool was the most beautiful of all. At present it is used to supply water to Bethlehem.
However recent evidence suggests that the lowest pool was probably the constructed during the Maccabean period at the time of the reconstruction of the temple at Jerusalem as (circa 2 BCE).
A second phase occurred when ancient Roman Pontius Pilate built 39 kilometers of the 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.
Legacy of the Namesake
The Bible says that Solomon, the prophet built the pools for his wives who were not allowed to go to the rivers for the tradition of ‘Purdah’. The underground springs and rainwater filled the pools. Herod, the ruler of Jerusalem, used the pool water to fill his cisterns that were used for water supply in his capital, Herodium and also in Jerusalem. He used aqueducts of 80 kilometers to carry the water to those places. Many archeologists believe that Herod was the one who popularized the pool.
For a long time the pool remained unused until Ottoman Sultan Suleiman al-Kanuni renovated and expanded the water straits to Jerusalem.
Ottoman Sultan Osman II was extra vigilant to save the splendid pools from potentially harmful sources and ensuring adequate water supply in Palestine. So in 1620, he built “Al-Burk Castle” on 2,000 square meters at arm’s length of the pool. During his reign, it was the way to Mecca where the Muslims go for Hajj. For safety, Osman appointed at least 50 security guards to look after the pools. After 280 years, Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II extended the site by adding a 16 km water channel to Jerusalem.
Though the beauty of this place has faded with time, now it is considered to be a national museum with 2,400 antiquities. Solomon’s Pools is highly recommended for a mesmerizing experience in Bethlehem.