Jerusalem’s Gigantic Ancient Pools Are a Remnant of Temple Pilgrimages

Archaeologists have, over the years, discovered a number of very large ancient reservoirs in Israel’s capital. According to a new study, these were built for the benefit of pilgrims who needed water for drinking, and for ritual immersion, when they came to the Temple to celebrate holidays. Yori Yalon writes:

Next to the Temple Mount is a massive cistern named the Pool of Israel, which is over 360 feet long, 111 feet wide, and over 78 feet deep. Between the houses of the Christian Quarter lies the Pool of Hezekiah. . . .

“While residents of Jerusalem had private wells under their homes and the ruling authorities had aqueducts, another solution was needed for the masses of pilgrims,” . . . [says] David Gurevich, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who specializes in the city during the Second Temple period. “These large complexes are the elephant in the room that researchers have [heretofore] ignored. Even though some of the pools were excavated and researchers suggested the use of individual pools, they ignored the larger picture [of why] these facilities are here. It turns out there has never been another city on the Mediterranean coast with such a large number of similar pools of water.”

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More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Jerusalem, Jewish holidays

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics