JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

9. The Mamilla Pool (1st Century BC?)

Date of Photos: 29 January 2010

Mamilla Pool іs one оf the largest reservoirs in Jerusalem with a dimension of 291 feet x 192 feet x 19 feet and a capacity to hold 30 million liters of water! This ancient pool supplied water tо the Hezekiah Pool inside the Old City оf Jerusalem (see my previous post). Located in the middle of a Muslim cemetery known as Mamilla Cemetery, the pool is less than a kilometer northwest to the Jaffa Gate. The exact date of the pool is unknown, but it is believed to exist from the time of Jesus and thought to be constructed by King Herod (1st cent. BC) or Pontius Pilate (1st Cent. AD). Some even identify the "upper pool" of 2 Kings 18:17 with the Mamilla Pool. The cemented coat on the pool you see now was added only after 1948.

Today, with the first rains, the pool becomes a haven for migrating birds, crabs, frogs and insects of different kinds. In 1997, a previously unknown species of tree frogs was discovered in the pool. The researchers named their find Hyla heinzsteinitzi, in honor of Heinz Steinitz, a deceased Israeli marine biologist. As of 2007, the species is assumed to be extinct (details from Wikipedia).

One of the most embarrassing chapters in Jewish history happened at the site of Mamilla Pool, where an estimated 25,000 to 90,000 local Christians of Jerusalem were slaughtered in the 7th century. At that time Jerusalem and its neighborhoods were a flourishing Christian center with several churches and monasteries. In 614 AD, the Persian Sassanid Emperor, Shah Khosrau II invaded Jerusalem and mercilessly butchered its inhabitants and plundered the city. Many churches were destroyed including the Church of Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Ascension on the Mt. of Olives; the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem along with the relic of the True Cross were taken to Persia.

Whether the massacre had a Jewish involvement is a matter of intense debate today. The proponents of this theory has gone too far to claim that local Palestinian Jews allied with their Babylonian coreligionists and assisted the Persians in their conquest of the Holy Land. On the other hand, the opponents, mainly Jewish scholars deny and often ignore such claims and stick to the opinion that only Persian army was involved, some even point out that there were no Jews in Jerusalem in the 7th century to conduct such a massacre. The 7th century accounts from the Armenian Bishop Sabeos and Palestinian monk Antiochus Strategos of Mar Saba suggest Jewish involvement in the massacre. According to Strategos, the local Jews purchased the Christian captives from the Persian invaders and killed them on the site of Mamilla Pool. He estimates 66,509 Christian corpses of which 24,518 were in Mamilla!  Later, Greek chronicler Theophanes (d. 818) enumerates the figure to 90,000!

Although, archaeological evidences do not support the massive scale of destruction in Jerusalem during this period as recorded in ancient documents; the discovery of a Christian burial cave in the site holding hundreds of skulls and bones and a small chapel with a mosaic inscription in Greek saying “God knows their names” is perhaps the first evidence for the killing of Christians in the Persian conquest of 614 AD. Israeli archaeologist Ronny Reich has excavated the grave and the results are published in the Biblical Archaeological Review (BAR) issue of 1996 (Volume 22, No 2).


Mamilla Pool is 750 meters North West to the Jaffa Gate. From the Jaffa Gate, walk along Yitzhahak Kariv Street and when you reach the Ha Mekhes Square turn to Gershon Argon Street. You can see the Mamilla Cemetery at the beginning of Gershon Argon Street on your right side and the Mamilla Pool is located in the center of this Muslim cemetery.