By: Vardah Littmann
On the lush green lawns across the road from the Haas promenade of Armon HaNatziv, there’s a slightly raised circular white stone platform. The stone is inlaid with mosaic and shows the plan for the aqueducts that stretched for 40 miles from the hills in the area of Beit Lechem and Tekoa all the way to Jerusalem.
It’s not known exactly when this water system was constructed, but most researchers credit the Maccabees with the initiative. Herod the Great seems to have improved the system and complete most of it.
During the First Temple era, the local water supplies met all the needs of the populace of Jerusalem. The greater numbers of inhabitants during the Second Temple period necessitated the bringing of water from afar. Since the use of pumps was unknown at the time, a large water source with an elevation higher than Jerusalem was needed to acquire the water.
Water was collected at the three Solomon Pools from a number of natural springs in the Chevron area with the most prominent one being Ein-Atan or Etam at the top of the Wadi Urtas. Two aqueducts channeled water to Jerusalem from Braichot Shlomo, which cover about seven acres and can hold about three million gallons of water. The pools are located just north of the modern city of Efrat. The aqueduct went around all the mountains in the area, through miles and miles of natural barriers, at the same elevation the whole way through.
It’s amazing to see how technically advanced they were. The Chazon Ish, in the fifth chapter of his book Emunah U'Bitachon, discusses former generations in comparison with ours. He brings examples of their technological superiority in many fields. Although the example of the aqueducts is not mentioned there, we can surely include it as an outstanding example of technological expertise.
A section of the aqueducts was discovered in the area of Armon HaNatziv. After the Six Day War, you could enter the aqueduct from either side, but a landslide in the middle curtailed a full passage to the other side.
About six or seven years ago, the aqueduct was cleared out and strengthened. Now you can pass though the dried- up 400 meters of the aqueduct which at some places is 15 meters underground and goes from one side of the hill to the other.
aqueduct, you need to either bring a torch or purchase one of the tiny torches that are sold at the entrance. There are “peep-holes” from above which let in sunlight, but they are few and far in between. At a number of places in the tunnel, signs show how many meters you’ve already traversed. At certain points, you can see construction done by the Turks on the tunnel.
For most children the aqueduct tunnel is an exciting experience, but it’s not pleasant for those who suffer from claustrophobia. The tunnel can be a tight squeeze for some, and even people of medium build have to turn sideways to go through the more narrow sections.
The walk through the tunnel takes about half an hour. As you near the end of the underground passage, daylight pours through the exit where a magnificent view of Jerusalem awaits you.. From this vantage point, Ramat Shlomo comes into view, and from here, it’s clear that this suburb fulfills all three of the conditions necessary for keeping Shushan Purim.
To order a time slot for walking through the aqueduct, call *6033.
For public transportation to the aqueduct, take Egged Bus #7 to Armon HaNatziv.