In The Etzion Bloc, Source Of Jerusalem’s Water, And Defense
In Herod’s era, Jerusalem had grown so fast there was never enough water for its residents. Then the king found a supply that he hoped would make the people love him…
King Herod had a problem: Nobody liked him.
Handpicked by the hated Romans to rule the land of Israel, and so paranoid that he kept murdering his loved ones, Herod had done his best to win over the Jews in his kingdom.
He had even built a temple that “appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white.” (Josephus Flavius in Wars of the Jews.)
And still he was despised.
The Sanhedrin (council of Jewish sages) claimed that he wasn’t even Jewish – even though his family had converted during the time of the Maccabees. And when there was a problem, the Jews listened to the Sanhedrin, and not to their king.
So Herod tried again.
Jerusalem had grown so fast that there was never enough water to provide for her residents, and to supply the pilgrims that came to worship thrice every year. The gardens were drying up and, most importantly, the Temple priests were desperate for enough water to carry out their rituals.
That’s it, thought Herod. I will give the city water. Hopefully, they will be so dependent on my good graces that they will start listening to me – and, besides, I will be able to control the goings-on at the Temple.
Herod chose an area in the Judean Mountains – today’s Etzion Bloc (Gush Etzion) – for his project: Located high above Jerusalem, it got plenty of rain and snow every year, and was filled with springs. And that is how, 2,000 years ago, the Biyar Aqueduct was born.