Israel 2000 Visit » Israel » 13 Water  (12 Slides)     [Page 1 of 1] :: Jump To  
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In the next few slides I would like to look at the topic of water. I always knew that fresh water was a precious commodity in this part of the world but didn't realize how scarce it really was. This is the Banias Spring at Tel Dan in the far North. It is one of three major sources of water for the Jordan River and thus the whole region. We were up here at Tel Dan near the end of our two month visit to Israel and it wasn't until I saw this stream that I realized how little flowing water I had seen in Israel. It was surprisingly refreshing to be in this forested area with this bubbling stream. When I was told that this was a major source of water for the region what struck me was how small it is. As you can see it is only about 3 meters wide. Granted we were there in July and there hadn't been much rain for the last few years so this stream was probably lower than it sometimes is, but it still is not very big considering it is a major source of water for multiple countries. In Canada this would not attract much attention.
Here's another shot of the precious water. I dare say that water is more precious here than either gold or oil. One Israeli professor commented that if there is another war in the region in the near future it will probably have more to do with water than land.
This is the Jordan River as it flows out of the south end of the Sea of Galilee. This is the big part. Shortly after this much of the water is channelled via underground pipes to parts of Israel as far as the Negev. By the time the river reaches the Dead Sea there is very little left which is why the Dead Sea has been shrinking dramatically over the last few decades.
This is another shot of the Jordan from the same spot as the previous picture but facing downstream. If you look at the large image you'll see people in the river which will give you a sense of its size. As I was putting together this slide show, my son Daniel, who is now 9 years old, commented that it wouldn't take much to find a place to ford this river even if it was flood season (Joshua 3:15). I wonder how high this river does get in the Spring; Joshua crossed it at Passover which is in the Spring (Joshua 5:10). I also have to wonder if the region was more watered in the past. It's my understanding that over the years Israel has been deforested (although they are working to change that) and that this would effect precipitation levels.
  1 Banias Spring  
  2 Banias Spring  
  3 Jordan River at Galilee  
  4 Jordan at Galilee  
Given that there are few rivers in Israel another important source of water, is of course, wells. This is a model of a well in the Biblical Gardens. Earlier in the Beersheba section we saw Abraham's well. We know wells were critically important in ancient times. In the Torah we see them mentioned in connection with Hagar (Genesis 16:14; 21:19), Abraham (Genesis 21:22-34), Rebekah (Genesis 24:11-22, 42-46), Isaac (Genesis 26:19-22, 25, 32-33), Jacob (Genesis 29:2-10), Moses (Exodus 2:15-19; Numbers 21:16-18), the Edomites (Numbers 20:17) and the Amorites (Numbers 21:22).  I think the Isaac texts sum up the situation well, no pun intended. :)

But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, The water is ours. So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. (Genesis 26:19-22) 

. . .

So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac's servants dug a well. (v. 25)

. . .

That same day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, We have found water. He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. (vs. 32-33)
This is the Gibeon Pool probably mentioned in 2 Samuel 2:13 and Jeremiah 41:12. We visited here near the end of our Jericho trip after coming up from the Jordan Valley. The Pool is south of Bethel and Ai but north of Jerusalem. What surprised me about this pool is that it was on the back side of a small Palestinian village in what looked like an abandoned olive grove. There was a bit of barbed wire around the top to keep people from accidentally falling in and that was it. There were no directions or interpretative signs to indicate where or what it was. Israel is like that, unmarked ancient structures seem to be everywhere. We climbed down into the bottom of the well/pool. At the top right you can see the beginning of the low wall that hides the spiral stairway. Parts of it are quite worn away. At the bottom it opens up into a 60 meter tunnel which leads to a spring and cave reservoir. This shot is from the tunnel opening. The black bottom half of this photograph is actually the tunnel wall. I guess the contrast with the bright light above made this part turn out all black. That's my mom at the top looking down. By the way, if you look in older books you can find pictures of this rock-cut pool being dug out. It must have been filled with debris for many centuries.
Another important source of water, aside from springs and rivers, is rain. Apparently, when it does rain in the winter months it can really come down so it is important to catch and store that water. This is a water cistern in Beth-shemesh near the graves that I showed you earlier. That's my dad and I walking down into it. Cisterns are covered and dark to keep the water relatively fresh. This is a small one. We went into some cisterns in the Old City just north of the Temple Mount area which were much larger. Also Masada has enormous cisterns which were used to store water in that dry, harsh environment. Cisterns also have to be plastered to keep them from leaking. A cracked cistern is good for nothing.

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)
This is another shot of the same cistern.
  5 Well and Jugs  
  6 Gibeon Pool  
  7 Water Cistern  
  8 Water Cistern  
This is one of my favourite photographs. That's Daniel and me standing on a section Herodian aqueduct. Aqueducts, of course, are another source of water - or channel at least. We came across this one on our trip down to Jericho. We found this just there beside the road where it has been for the past 2000 years. No signs, no protection from the elements, as unremarkable as the old corner gas station you may pass on a forgotten Saskatchewan back road. I find it all quite amazing. If you look at the large image you can see the cement plaster that lined the water channel. I like the contrast of this ancient water carrier against the background of the barren Judean hills. But actually, these hills are not as barren as you might think. Believe it or not, we saw sheep and goats grazing on these hills. It looked like they were eating rocks but I guess there must have be some vegetation close to the ground. If you look closely, just to the left of Daniel's head, you'll see a Bedouin tent. They live out here and pasture their flocks!
This is a much larger aqueduct at Caesarea. Here we are looking through one of the arches out towards the Mediterranean Sea. King Herod built Caesarea between 22 and 10 B.C. but the area did not have any natural springs or rivers so he had to build this aqueduct. It brought water from a town named Shuni about 7 1/2 km away. This was a significant engineering challenge because both towns are so near sea level and, of course, the aqueduct would need an incline for the water to flow. Herod's engineers were successful though; the aqueduct descends by a mere 20 centimeters for every kilometer!
This is definitively not Israel. On our way home we stopped by in Germany for a few days and I was struck by the contrast. Here we have a ditch full of water next to some sheep and green grass. I wouldn't normally have given it much attention but after having been in Israel, at least in the summer, seeing an open pool of water in a ditch seemed quite remarkable.
This, of course, is what a land can look like when it has plenty of water - lots of green grass and puffy clouds. Now some familiar Bible passages take on new significance.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, 'I am the LORD's,' another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, 'The LORD's,' and name himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:3-5)
  9 Aqueduct by Jericho Road  
  10 Aqueduct at Caesarea  
  11 Water in Germany  
  12 Lush Climate  
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© Charles Grebe
This slide show is dedicated to my mother who made possible our summer 2000 visit to Israel.