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In 1921, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk established a provisional government in Ankara. In 1922, the Ottoman Sultanate was formally abolished and in 1923 Turkey became a secular republic with Atatürk as its president. He established a single party regime that lasted until 1945. He launched  revolutionary social and political reforms to modernize Turkey. These reforms included the abolition of all Islamic institutions, emancipation of women and the introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar and alphabet, replacing the Arabic script with a Latin one. Abroad he pursued a policy of neutrality. In 1935, he was given the name Atatürk, meaning "Father of the Turks".  



Jerusalem's Water Supply In Antiquity

I brohght you to this country of farmland to enjoy its fruit and bounty. JEREMIAH (2:7)

Gihon Spring

Since the times of King David, Jerusalem holds the central role in the history of our civilization. To this day it’s one of the holiest cities in the world where Jews, Christians and Muslims contesting for parts of it and some for all of it. Jerusalem is situated on the plateau in the Judean Mountains at almost 2500 feet above the sea level and miles and miles away from the nearest coast. The summers in Jerusalem could be very hot and winters quite cold. It was away from any major trading routes of the ancient world, but its mountainous location allowed the inhabitants to fortify the city and successfully guard against the invading tribes.

But it was the relatively insignificant water source called Gihon Spring that put Jerusalem on the map. Without it even the relatively small number of inhabitants of the ancient Judea probably could not survive the harsh conditions of the land. Following the flow of the Gihon Spring from its origin in the Kidron Valley through Hezekiah’s tunnel and to Siloam Pool is like reliving some of the most important chapters in the Bible.

The waters of Gihon spring were once believed to have special powers. The Hebrew name of Gihon translates as “gushing” or “gush forth”. Its geological structure is such that inner cave where the spring water originates from has a shape of siphon and when the cave overflows the water gets pushed through the nature made tube-like opening that eventually flows into the Kidron Valley.

The next “gush” would occur when the cave overflows again making the availability of the water intermittent and dependent on the amount of the seasonal rainfall which usually appears around the spring time. From early May to middle of October almost not a drop of rain is expected to fall and anything to the contrary would be considered a blessing. That is why ancient Israelites and Canaanites before them were using a system of tunnels and pools to store the water to be used during the dry summer months.

Gihon Spring was the main water source that could sustain the city of David as there were no other major sources of water inside the city walls. If the city came under siege, it would eventually run out of water and inevitably fall to invaders. The importance of this water supply for the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem was reinforced by archeological excavations in 1990s in the vicinity if the Gihon Spring that revealed the massive tower-like fortifications, named Spring and Pool Towers, that were built to protect the city’s main water supply. 

The spring was not only used for drinking water, but also for irrigation of gardens in the adjacent Kidron Valley. Gihone spring was also essential in Temple rituals of ancient Jerusalem as it provided what was considered a sacred water used for the purification of body and soul of the visiting pilgrims. 

Gihon Spring also played a significant role in the political life of the City of David. According to Old Testament (I Kings 1:35), when King David got older he began preparing his son Solomon to take over. Since Solomon was still young and inexperienced David made arrangements to stockpile stone, bronze, cedar and iron for the sole purpose of building the temple. That responsibility would fall on Solomon the future king of Israel.

When the time was right David ordered his close aides, Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, to saddle the royal mule, place Solomon on it and take him to the sacred Gihon spring and anoint him king. Then they were to blow trumpets and shout aloud “Long lives King Solomon”. Gihon Spring was the place where the coronations of kings of Israel took place.

Jerusalem currently gets its water supply from the area around Rosh Ha-Ain, about 25 miles northwest of the city. Even though Jerusalem’s survival no longer depends on the Gihon Spring, its subterranean tunnels are very popular with tourists. The spring is still considered as sacred by many religious Jews who use it for ritual bath called a mikvah.


Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Right after the Assyrian king Sennacherib captured Babylon, destroying the entire city in the process; he has set his sight on conquering Jerusalem. He began with conquering the kingdom of Israel to the north and in the process sending thousands of refugees seeking shelter in the kingdom of Judah and its capital Jerusalem which at the time was under the control of King Hezekiah. For many Israeli tribes it was probably not a big stretch since the memory of Israel as a united nation was still relatively fresh.

When the King Hezekiah learned of the fate befallen on Babylon and Israel, he frantically began to prepare Jerusalem for an inevitable confrontation with Assyrian invaders. In 701B.C. he embarked on the monumental projects of building additional fortifications around Jerusalem and digging a tunnel under the city through the bedrock in order to divert the waters of the Gihon spring in the Kidron Valley to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls. As noted in Old Testament 2 Chronicles 32:30  "It was Hezekiah, who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David."

The 1750 foot tunnel was hacked through the rock by two groups of workers connecting the Gihon Spring outside the city with Siloam pool located within the city walls. The tunnel was dug out using the hammers, chisels, axes and bucket brigades. When the two teams met in the middle it meant that water now was flowing into the city and Jerusalem was ready for a confrontation with the Assyrians. When visiting the tunnel one can see the pick marks switch directions where workers met in the middle. The width and height is not symmetrical and widely varies throughout the tunnel.

The tunnel was not dug in the straight line, but rather has a curved configuration. Archeologists argue whether it was because the diggers made some mistakes or they just followed the natural flow of the rock. One of the theories on how it was possible to dig a tunnel from opposite directions is that the workers were following the hammering sounds from above to navigate their way through the rock.

In 1880 two boys walking through the tunnel discovered a carving on the wall from Hezekiah’s period. The curving, in ancient Hebrew, says “The tunnel was cut through and this is the way in which it was cut”. The inscription was chiseled out the stone by the fortune seekers, but later seized by the Ottoman authorities. It is currently residing in the Archeological Museum of Istanbul.

Siliam Inscription   

Eventually Sennacherib invaded Judah and destroyed several cities within the kingdom. Thousands of Jewish inhabitants were pushed out of their homes and many have found their way into Jerusalem. The substantial expansion of Jerusalem placed a severe pressure on its limited water resources. The Gihon spring, while an important source of water, was no longer enough to satisfy the needs of a much larger population.

It appears that city residents have found some alternative water resources while in addition have built water reservoirs. One of those additions was found north of the Temple Mount in Beth Zeita valley better known as Bethesda. Hezekiah dammed a valley to create the Bethesda Pools to deliver more water into the city. In the later years the Bethesda pools were primarily used to wash a livestock before being taken for a sacrificial slaughter to the Temple.

In 1950s an important discovery revealed a channel carved in the rock beneath the pools that descended southward. Charles Warren discovered the continuation of this channel in the Ophel area. The Ophel is the highest point of the Eastern Hill that sits between the City of David and the Temple Mount. It was likely that by maintaining the same water levels this channel allowed to bring water to the western hill.

Sennacherib ravaged Judah and in the process decimated an Egyptian army that had come to the aid of Hezekiah. Assyrians made their way to the outskirts of Jerusalem setting up a camp to the north of the city.  By that time Hezekiah poisoned all the wells outside Jerusalem. All these factors in addition to new defensive fortifications build by Hezekiah, the plague within the Assyrian ranks, the news of the rebellion in the eastern provinces of the Assyrian empire prompted Sennacherib to pack up and leave.

Today a walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel is a big tourist attraction. Visitors would have to walk in the cold water almost a knee high and the water is almost pristine.


Warren’s Shaft

Gihon Spring was the primary water source for residents of ancient Jerusalem. However, during the times of siege, the spring, which was located outside the city walls, was inaccessible to the residents. To solve this problem the Canaanites, who lived in the city around 18-15th centuries BCE, used subterranean tunnel through which they secured access to water.

In 1867, English explorer Charles Warren discovered the section of the underground tunnel leading from inside the city and ending at 13 meter deep natural karstic shaft. Captain Warren and his assistant climbed from Gihon Spring up a vertical chimney-like shaft using scaffolding made out of wooden beams. From the top of the shaft they continued up through a tunnel which to their surprise led right into the city. The shaft was eventually named after the man who discovered it, hence the name Warren’s Shaft.

For many years Warren’s Shaft was considered the main component of the ancient water system from which the inhabitants drew the spring water when under the siege. The shaft was even identified it with a “gutter assembly” used by David’s soldiers to infiltrate Jebus.

The capture of Jerusalem is mentioned twice in the Bible. In the Book of Chronicles “As David stood before the walls of the city, he proclaimed that the first to enter the city shall be chief and captain”. It was his nephew Joab ben Zerulah who was able to sneak into the city first. In the book of Samuel, Jebusite king Araunah was taunting the Israelites as he assembled blind and lame on the city wall, proclaiming “David shell not enter here”. But David, as Bible notes, “getteth up to the gutter” and captured the city.

The meaning of Hebrew word tsinor (gutter in English), used in the book of Samuel has been debated for many years. Originally it was thought to be referring to Warren’s Shaft. Many scholars thought that David succeeded in conquering Jerusalem by climbing up the shaft and entering the city unnoticed by Jebusites until it was too late.

However the new excavations have changed that theory. Contrary to previous beliefs, recent findings indicate that water was not drawn from this shaft and only the secondary use was made of it. Instead the Canaanite inhabitants of the city in the 18th century BCE created a rock-cut pool surrounded by the fortifications to which they channeled part of the spring’s water. Excavations exposed the remains of two massive towers dated to the Canaanite period and in between the towers was a deep pool. Those towers were built to protect the water supply during the time of war.

In addition, studies conducted in 1980s established that Warren Shaft is an extension of already existing cave and not as a man-made tunnel. A more realistic scenario is that the original planners of the ancient water system used naturally developed underground tunnels and shafts and cut extensions to them that allowed for safe passage from the inside the city to the available water source.

In the 1980s, a team of archeologists headed by Professor Yegal Shiloh cleared the system allowing visitors to walk through it. In 1998 during the routine construction the builders discovered an additional passageway, two meters higher than Warren’s Shaft that leads to the pool of water much closer to the Gihon Spring.

The archeological work around the Warren shaft and adjoining water systems still continues and every year new discoveries are made re-writing many previous concepts. One of the more important ones was made in 2012 when a large rock-hewn water reservoir dating to the First Temple period was discovered right by the Robinson Ark. Discovery of the 250 cubic meter reservoir indicates that Jerusalem’s water consumption during the First Temple period was not limited from the output of the Gihon Spring alone.

According to Dr. Tvika Tsuk, the chief Archeologist of the Nature and Parks Authority:   “Presumably the large water reservoir, which is situated near the Temple Mount, was used for the every-day activities of the Temple Mount itself and also by pilgrims who went up to the Temple and required water for bathing and drinking”.


Siloam Pool

The Siloam Pool of today is just a small remnant of the pool used by the citizens of Jerusalem during the ancient times. It was curved up out of the solid rock and fed by the waters of Gihon Spring that were flowing through Hezekiah’s tunnel.  For years another much smaller pool less than 200 yards away was called a Siloam pool. It is located right outside of the exit from Hezekiah’s tunnel.  In reality it‘s a pool that was built by Byzantine empress Eudocia around 400 A.D.

In 2005 archeologists uncovered part of a real Siloam pool when city workers were fixing the broken water pipe and accidentally stumbled across of two ancient steps. It was immediately recognized for what it was by leading Israeli archeologists Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich. As the work of unearthing the pool began, three groups of five stairs separated by narrow landings were uncovered. The level of the water in the pool would have depended on the seasonal weather and based on how much water was deposited into the pool. There were stairs available at every level to accommodate the bathers.

The Siloam Pool is situated, most likely on purpose, at the lowest areas in Jerusalem. It was destroyed along with the Solomon’s Temple by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. It was destroyed again in 70 A.D. after Roman General Titus burned Jerusalem to the ground and expelled all the Jews. There was no one left to maintain the pool. Annual rains over the period of thousand years deposited so much dirt and debris into the pool that it eventually disappeared from the face of the earth.

The Siloam Pool

People would wash at the pool of Siloam before walking up to the Temple Mount. Most recent discoveries in Jerusalem uncovered a wide road from the Second Temple period with stairs that were used by worshipers to walk from the pool to the temple. It lies 50 feet beneath the modern Israeli road and is believed to have been built by King Herod in 1st century A.D. People used to wash at the pool not only for physical cleanliness but also to be purified by the holy water that came from the Gihon Spring. Only then would they approach the holiest site in Judaism. It must have been quite a spectacle, especially during the high holidays like Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot when thousands of people made an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Kind David expressed perfectly in the psalm 23 how the ancient Israelite would feel when approaching the holy Temple: “Who shall ascend into the holy hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

Work of uncovering the rest of the Siloam pool continues. Unfortunately, there is a private property sitting right on the top of it and will take some time before the deal can be finally negotiated with the current owners. It would be quite an accomplishment when the entire pool is restored, especially when for years its very existence was questioned by so called experts and by the forces with an agenda of denying the historical ownership of the city by the Jews.