Solomon's Pools (Beraik Solayman), are located immediately to the south of al-Khader and about 5
kilometres southwest of Bethlehem. The pools consist of three open cisterns, each pool with a 6 metre
drop to the next, fed from an underground spring. With each pool being over 100 metres long, 65 metres
wide and 10 metres deep, the total water capacity is approximately 200 million litres. Consequently the
pools have played a significant role in the area's water supply for centuries. They are erroneously
named after the Biblical Solomon, stemming from a legend of Solomon using the waters and gardens as in
Ecclesiastes 2.6, where Solomon is recorded as saying "I made myself pools from which to water the
forest of growing trees".
However, recent evidence suggests that the lowest pool was probably the constructed during the
Maccabean period at the time of the reconstruction of the temple at Jerusalem (circa 2 BCE). A second
phase occurred when Pontius Pilate built 39 km of aqueduct from the collection pools at Arrub. Roman
engineering under Herod the Great in connection with his improvements to the Second Temple created the
underground tunnel feeding the upper pool.
The pools provide water for an aqueduct system supplying Bethlehem and for the population of Jerusalem
where the aqueduct terminated under the Temple Mount and separated from its neighbour by 50 metres and
each pool is 6 metres lower than that above it, the conduits being so arranged that the lowest, which
is the largest and finest of the three, is filled first, and then in succession the others. It has been
estimated that these pools cover about 7 acres (28,000 m2).
The pools are fed by four different springs; the most prominent is Ein-Atan or Etam at the head of the
Wadi Urtas, called "the sealed fountain," about 200 metres to the north-west of the upper pool. The
spring water is transferred to the upper pool by a large subterranean passage. The water system as a
whole shows a high degree of sophistication. Five different aqueducts, totalling nearly 60 kilometres
in length, were linked to Solomon's Pools. From the lower pool an aqueduct has been traced carrying the
water through Bethlehem and across the valley of Gihon, and along the west slope of the Tyropoeon
valley, till it finds its way into the great cisterns underneath the temple hill in Jerusalem. The
water, however, from the pools now reaches only to Bethlehem. The aqueduct beyond this has been
destroyed. Two of the aqueducts connected to additional water sources from the south; another, from the
upper pool, carried water east to the Herodium where Herod had constructed a large recreational pool,
lined with columns; and two aqueducts brought water to Jerusalem.
The area around Solomon's Pools has provided a pleasant atmosphere for picnics and relaxation over the
centuries. On the north side at the entry to the park is an old Ottoman structure, built in 1620, which
is known as Qal'at el-Burak or the castle of the pools. This has served at times as a khan (a resting
place for caravans) and now has a restaurant with a garden area inside.