Tag Archives: Palestinian Authority

U.S.A. helping restore the Pools of Solomon

A sub-headline in The Times of Israel here about tell the whole story.

US Consulate funds $750,000 restoration of 2,000-year-old Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem with hopes of making it a tourist site.

These pools have nothing to do with Solomon, but much to do with Jerusalem’s water supply in New Testament times. I recommend you read my earlier post about this here. I am re-posting some photos of the three pools that I made in 2014.

The western pool. View to east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The western pool. View to east. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The middle pool is shown here with a view to the northwest. You can see the higher hills in the break between the trees.

The middle pool with a view to the northwest. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The middle pool with a view to the northwest. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The third pool (easternmost) is shown below with a view toward the west.

The third pool (eastern) is shown with a view toward the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The third pool (eastern) is shown with a view toward the west. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the previous article I have several links to more detailed information about these pools and the aqueduct system that carried the water to Jerusalem.

In the earliest days of my tours we were able to visit Solomon’s Pools as we traveled between Bethlehem and Hebron. In recent years it has been more difficult to visit the pools, and we have pointed out before that they are in need of restoration.

Looking forward to the completion of this project that I am helping pay for (if you get my drift).

HT: ABR Newsletter, @go2Carl, Bible Places Blog.

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Bal’ama is thought to be Biblical Ibleam

We always wanted to travel through the hill country of Samaria (Manasseh and Ephraim) on our tours, but there were many years that this was not possible due to the political situation. When travel was possible we drove (from the north) through Jenin, the plain of Dothan, Samaria, Shechem (Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, Jacob’s Well), and other sites as time permitted. If we could not travel along the central mountain range we drove through the Jordan Valley.

Sometime when traveling through Jenin, our guide would mention that there is a tel (tell, archaeological mound) on the south side of the city, but we never saw it. Traveling in a bus normally provides a better view because one is sitting higher, but I now understand why we did not see this tel. The excavation report explains that the spring entrance at road level became visible only after the 1996-1997 road work. The road runs through the Wadi Bal’ama.

The site on the south side of Jenin is known as Khirbet Bal’ama, or Khirbet Belameh. Several 19th and 20th century archaeologists identified this site with Biblical Ibleam.

Ibleam was a Canaanite town in the territory given to the Israelite tribe of Manasseh. As the Israelites settled in the land, there were Canaanite cities that they failed to capture. One of them was Ibleam (Joshua 17:11). The Biblical text says,

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. (Judges 1:27 ESV)

Thutmose III was the ruler of Egypt (1504-1450 B.C.) during the 18th Dynasty. Some scholars place the beginning of his rule at 1490 and others at 1479.

Thutmose III at the Temple of Amum at Karnak. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Seated statue of Thutmose III at the Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Thutmose made a military excursion into Canaan and left a record of it on the walls of the Karnak Temple. Our photo shows a few of the bound rulers of various cities. I don’t have a translation of the cartouches and do not know if Bal’ama is shown in this photo, but it is included somewhere on the walls of Karnak.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Part of the city list left by Thutmose III at Karnak Temple. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My interest in Bal’ama was renewed when I read A.D. Riddle’s article in the Bible Places Blog here. Last April, 2016, I had this site in mind when we were able to drive through the West Bank from Galilee to Jerusalem. As we drove south of Jenin I caught a glimpse of the new sign marking the entrance to Bal’ama Tunnel. Note that the sign is in Arabic and English. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this sign was there in 2015 when I drove through Jenin, but I may have been looking to the east of the highway.

Bal'ama is marked as Bal'ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bal’ama is marked as Bal’ama Tunnel on the west side of the road from Jenin to Dothan, Samaria, and Nablus (Shechem). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are two information signs posted at the site of Khirbet Bal’ama. The first reads,

Khirbet Bal’ama is a Canaanite fortified city that occupied a strategic position controlling the historic route of Wadi Bal’ama which connects the Arraba Plain with Marj Ibn Amer (“Jarzeel [Jezreel] Valley”). In the ancient record, the site is identified with the name “Ibleam“, and was mentioned in the Egyptian Royal Archive in the 15th century B.C. With reference to the classical records, Bal’ama was known as “Belemoth”, and was mentioned as a major town during the Bronze Age and beginnings of the Iron Age. It was inhabited during the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Early Islamic periods, also during the crusader/Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Excavations at the site carried out by a Joint Palestinian-Dutch team between 1998 and 2000, revealed the water system and parts of a city walls dating back to the Bronze Age at the western perimeter of the site, ruins for houses dating back to the second Iron Age, a winery from the Roman period and remnants of a tower on top of the hill dating back to the crusader/Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. A cemetery on the southern top of the hill adjacent to Khirbet Bal’ama was discovered as well.

Khirbet Bal’ama is visible to the right of the new building on the slope. There are two entrances to the tunnel; one at street level and another at the level of the platform on the slope.

The site of Khirbet Bal'ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Khirbet Bal’ama south of Jenin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Riddle includes some nice photos of the site, but we can add one with the entrance to the tunnel system open.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal'ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the tunnel at Khirbet Bal’ama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another sign on the entrance plaza describes the water tunnel system.

The water tunnel is located at the eastern foot of Khirbet Bal’ama. It was first described by Victor Guerin in 1874 and then by G. Schumacher [who had earlier excavated at Megiddo] in 1910. The rock-cut tunnel was dug to give access to the water source at the foot of the hill. It was designed primarily to be used in times of war and siege. The Bal’ama water tunnel system is one of the major systems in Palestine, like other systems found in Jerusalem, Tel el-Muteselim (Megiddo), Tel el-Qadah (Hazor) and Tell el-Jazari (Gezer). The tunnel consists of three parts, namely the archway at the lowest entrance, the rock-cut tunnel going upward to the west, and the upper stone-built narrow passage. The discovered tunnel is 115 metres in length; 105 metres of it is rock-cut and includes 57 stairs. Archaeological objects were found, such as pottery vessels, glass objects, coins, and some inscriptions.

And we can add a photo of the actual lower water tunnel. Riddle says,

The tunnel was apparently constructed in the Iron Age, though this is based largely on inference rather than clear, direct evidence

Beginning of the Bal'ama Tunnel on the east side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beginning of the Bal’ama Tunnel on the eastern (northeast, Riddle) side of the city. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Due to lunch plans at Samaria and other sites on our schedule for the day we were not able to walk through the tunnel. Always a reason to return.

Riddle cites two excavation reports. He says the first may be difficult to access in the United States, but I am pleased to say that both documents are now available on Academia under the name of Hamdan Taha. This is for those who have a more technical interest in the site.

Taha, Hamdan and Gerrit van der Kooij. The Water Tunnel System at Khirbet Bal’ama. Archaeological Project Report of the 1996–2000 Excavations and Surveys, volume II. Ramallah: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage. 2007.

Taha, Hamdan. “Excavation of the Water Tunnel at Khirbet Belameh, 1996-1997.” in Proceedings of the First International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Rome, May 18th-23rd 1998. 2000: 1587-1613.

Historical treasure neglected in Palestinian territory

“Solomon’s Pools” are a significant historical treasure worthy of full protection by those entrusted with their upkeep. According to a report in Ynet, visitors to Solomon’s Pools report collapse of one of the walls here. You need to visit this site to see photos of the reported damage.

Solomon (ruled about 970–931 B.C.) gets credit for several things he had nothing to do with. The pools, located south of Bethlehem, date to the Hasmonean period (about 100 B.C.) and supplied water to Jerusalem, including the Temple area through a series of aqueducts.

We suggest you read our article about Solomon’s Pool, including photos of all three pools or reservoirs here.

I wanted to add a photo I made in April, 2013, illustrating the need for repair in the eastern pool that I observed at the time.

Obvious neglect I observed in one of the pools in April, 2013. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.Who is responsible for the care of these famous pools? The answer lies in a complicated system of zones laid out in the Oslo 2 Accord. The West Bank was divided into three zones, A, B, and C. Zone A is to be fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Zone B is under Palestinian civil control and joint security control by Israel and the Palestinians. Zone C is under full Israeli control.

Solomon’s Pools are in Zone A and should be cared for by the Palestinian Authority.

I don’t want anyone to get uptight about some perceived political bias here. I have pointed out before that ancient Samaria (Sebaste) is part of the Israeli National Parks system and is in need of serious attention.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Visualizing Isaiah 12: wells of salvation

Isaiah describes the Messianic Age as one that will be characterized by many spiritual blessings. The pleasant waters of Shiloah had been rejected by God’s people, but in the time to come Judah would joyfully draw water from the wells of salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 ESV)

The term mayan (wells) is often used in the Old Testament of springs, fountains, wells, or pools of water.

We might think of a well like the one where Jesus stopped at Sychar in Samaria.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:10-15 ESV)

Jacob's well in Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jacob’s well in Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Or, we might think of a spring like the beautiful one at the source of the Banias River at Caesarea Philippi. This spring and river becomes a major source of the Jordan River.

The source of the Banias River, source of the River Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The source of the Banias River. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Hiking Abraham’s footsteps

The full title of this Haaretz article is “Hiking in Abraham’s footsteps, from Turkey to the Holy Land.” Sounds incredible at the moment. To hike this complete trail from Haran (Genesis 12:4) to Beersheba (Genesis 21:31) (not to mention the trip to Egypt) requires travel in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority (West Bank).

Among the leaders back of the concept is David Landis and his wife Anna Dintaman, developers of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. Their book, Hiking the Jesus Trail and Other Biblical Walks in the Galilee, is worthwhile even for those who do not plan to walk the trail.

Larry Haverstock walked the Jesus Trail in 2011. I see that Larry’s posts about the experience is still available on his blog. See the 3rd Journey. You will find some fascinating stories along with beautiful photos you may never see from a bus or car.

Larry Haverstock in the Zippori Forest north of Nazareth.

Larry Haverstock in the Zippori Forest north of Nazareth.

The link to the Haaretz article may be accessed here. In order to read the full article you must register for free access to 10 articles a month.

Don’t expect to walk the Abraham Path from Haran (in Turkey) to Beersheva [Beersheba], but you might be able to walk small portions of the trail everywhere except the part going through Syria.

There are many hiking trails in Israel, but most of these avoid contact with the Palestinian Authority. The new plan seeks to involve the local people in the development of facilities useful to hikers.

If you like hiking, or if you appreciate the geography of the Bible lands you will probably enjoy the article. Abraham Path has a nice web site with maps and photos here.

I don’t know what, if any, relationship there is between the Abraham  Path and the Patriarchs Way, a trail that is said to run from Beersheba to Nazareth. The defacing of the sign to eradicate the Arabic indicates one of the problems either trail might face. One often sees this sort of thing on signs pointing to Christian sites.

Sign pointing to Patriarchs Way off Hebron Road (Hwy. 60) south of Bethlehem . Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign pointing to Patriarchs Way off Hebron Road (Hwy. 60) south of Bethlehem . Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel, by Judith Galblum Pex, is a fascinating account of a couple who walked the Israel Trail from Eilat to Dan.

Leeches in Sea of Galilee; Palestinian Village; Jericho

Sea of Galilee invaded by leeches. For the second time in 7 years the lake has an explosion of leeches. The article in Haaretz says,

Standing in the water for as little as two minutes will cause your legs to be covered in hundreds of leeches. These particular types are not blood-suckers, making them relatively easy to remove once one is out of the water

Causes for the large number of leeches include “human activity, including pollution, poisoning and overpumping.”

Read the full article here.

The Sea of Galilee was central to much of the ministry of Jesus.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. (Matthew 4:18 ESV)

Palestinian Village uses Roman irrigation system to continue terraced farming near Bethlehem. Read the story, with beautiful photo, in The New York Times here.

Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Sepienza University in Rome, in cooperation with the Palestinian General Directorate of Antiquities, has published a Palestine Archaeological Databank and Information System. Check here for maps and other information. Our readers will likely be interested in the excavation reports on Tell es-Sultan/Jericho here. Click on the Results 2012 photo for the most recent work by the Italian-Palestinian Expedition at Jericho. Every visitor to the site will welcome is the new paths, identifying signs, and general clean-up of the site.

I was especially pleased to see the Digital Visit plan of the site. Click on it was a colorful, readable plan of the site like the central portion of the one shown below. Prof. Lorenzo Nigro is the director of the excavation.

Tourist Path and Main Monuments at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourist Path and Main Monuments at Tell es-Sultan/Jericho. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jericho is important in Old Testament history (Joshua 6).

HT: Bible Places Blog; Jack Sasson; Barry Britnell; “La Sapienza” Expedition to Palestine.

A day in the West Bank

There was a time that it was easy to visit sites in the Palestinian West Bank. That is no longer true. Car rental companies will not permit their cars to be taken into the West Bank. We hired a driver and vehicle (4WD) to take us several places. I think we were fortunate to obtain the services of a tourist bus driver who happened to have a day free. Even for him going into the West Bank was not easy.

First it is necessary to choose the appropriate border crossing. Then instead of taking what formerly was the most direct route drivers must go in circles to avoid running into the fence (or wall). This is especially true near Jerusalem.

Our first stop was Gibeon (Joshua 9-10). The last time I was there to see the excavations by James Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania I drove directly to the ruins. This time it was extremely difficult to reach the same ruins. We were successful in our efforts and got some good photos that we hope to share later.

We also stopped at Shiloh where the tabernacle was set up after the ancient Israelites entered Canaan  (Joshua 18:1). A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority was excavation in three different areas low on the tel in areas mostly from the Islamic and Byzantine period.

Next we went to Mount Gerizim to visit the Samaritans Museum. Husney W. Cohen, a priest and director of the Museum, was kind to show us around and explain the Samaritan viewpoint about several biblical events. Samaritans believe the temple was to be built on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. They think Abraham offered Isaac on the mountain. They accept only the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Old Testament. In this photo you see Cohen, myself, and Leon Mauldin with the ancient scroll. This scrolls look to be much newer, or better preserved, than the old one I photographed many years ago (here).

wSamaritan Scroll at Mount Gerizim

Samaritan Scroll at Mount Gerizim. Husney W. Cohen, Ferrell Jenkins, Leon Mauldin.

I understood Husney W. Cohen to say that he was third in line to become the High Priest of the Samaritans.

We had hoped to visit the archaeological work on Mount Gerizim, but it was closed due to some construction.

We made a short stop at Jacob’s well (John 4). Then we visited the new Tel Balata Archaeological Park. Tel Balata is the site of biblical Shechem (Genesis 12:1). While in Nablus we also made a short stop at the traditional Tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

We left the central mountain rain through Wadi Farah (now called Wadi Tirza by the Israelis.   We were short on time and did not try to stop at Tirza (1 Kings 15:33). The springs that once flowed through the valley are now practically dry. I understand this is because the water is being piped away by Israel for use by the settlements.

We stopped at Jericho and made a visit to Tell es-Samarat (the site of Herod’s hippodrome) and Herod;s Palace (Matthew 2). New signs have been erected to point to these places, but the roads to them are terrible. The sites are in terrible condition and there are no explanatory signs.

In the future we hope to show some photo of some of these places.