Playground’s hidden secret now providing fun for kids


EARLY on a Shabbat afternoon in a park in the Jerusalem suburb of Talpiot, families picnic on clipped lawns or fill benches and tables tucked under tall shade-giving trees.

Just metres from their parents, children chase each other, squealing with delight as they clamber over ancient stone and mortar walls, crawl through the round holes hewn in the centre of half a dozen enormous square rocks and peer through smaller apertures between sections of wall.

A small boy, yarmulke sitting askew on his head, curly sidelocks swinging to and fro, beats his chest in ‘I’m the king of the castle’-style.

The boistrous kids are totally oblivious to the fact they are actually having a grand time in what would seem to them to be a natural adventure playground, but is in fact sections of an aqueduct whose history dates back thousands of years.

Running through the park, which is almost completely surrounded by high-rise apartment blocks, are large sections of the renovated Jerusalem Aqueduct that 2,000 years ago would have been conveying water to their incredible city through a system awash with ingenuity and engineering brilliance.

When the children were thirsty from all their running, climbing and merry making, they rather loudly drank cool water from a nearby water fountain — obviously with no thought of where the water was coming from or how it had got there.

The aqueduct was constructed by the Hasmonean kings, beginning at springs situated near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem and over 20 kilometres long.

The aqueduct runs along a gentle slope with the water level falling only a metre per kilometre.

Initially, the aqueduct was just an open channel, but around 500 years ago, the Ottomans, for better protection of the vital life-supporting flowing water, added a terra cotta pipe to the already existing carrier.

As Jerusalem in the modern era expanded, swallowing up huge tracts of open land, and with this water source being one of the main suppliers to meet the needs of the city, the old water system was replaced a century ago by a new electrically operated one.

Recognising the huge historical and archaeological importance of the ancient aqueduct, the Israel Antiquities Authority has worked in earnest to expose sections of the aqueduct’s remains, such as those renovated in the Talpiot park and in other areas, while more fragile sections have been reburied for their protection and marked for possible renovation in the future.

Not only have the IAA made the impressive system of yesteryear accessible to the public, but also provided on-site historical information (in English and Hebrew) so that locals and visitors can share in the wonders of the ingenious water system devised and built by the city’s forefathers thousands of years ago.

A map laid out in concrete at the base of one of the renovated sections of the ancient aqueduct in the park, shows not only the route of the ancient water system, but the route line is indented.

With the press of a button inlaid in the ground alongside the map, water begins to flow, filling up the channel at the beginning of the water source, flowing through to the city of Jerusalem.

A little girl, dressed in her Shabbat finery, stares at a little dog energetically lapping up water.

“Abba, the dog is drinking all the water and there won’t be any left for us,” she cried to her rather amused father.

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