The historic Pool of Siloam — the nearly three millennia-old public pool in the City of David in which Jewish pilgrims would purify themselves before journeying on to the Temple and which the New Testament records as the site where Jesus healed a blind man — is to be fully excavated and opened to modern-day pilgrims in the coming months, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Tuesday.
“Due to its great significance, over the past 150 years the Pool of Siloam has been an attraction for archaeologists and researchers from all over the world,” the IAA said Tuesday in a joint statement with the City of David Foundation and the Nature and Parks Authority. “Now it is expected to be fully exposed for the first time and to be open to the general public.”
The mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, said the long-awaited opening will further enrich visitors to the holy city.
“After many years of anticipation, we will soon merit being able to uncover this important site and make it accessible to the millions of visitors visiting Jerusalem each year,” he said.
The historically and religiously significant pool is believed to have been constructed around 2,700 years ago, during the reign of King Hezekiah (late 8th century B.C.), one of the most venerated kings of Judah described as having done “what was right in the eyes of the LORD” in his religious reformations and who led Israel during the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem.
By the time of Jesus, the Pool of Siloam was a place in which Jewish pilgrims would regularly come to immerse themselves for ritualistic cleansing before journeying up to the Holy Temple, and it was at this pool Jesus is believed to have miraculously given sight to a blind man, as recorded in the Gospel of John:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7, NIV)
During the initial phase of the new tourism project, visitors will be able to observe the excavation process taking place in the City of David, the original settlement location of Jerusalem, which lies just south of the Temple Mount. Within a few months, the City of David Foundation will expand public access to include the entirety of the pool as part of a tour of the historic route to the Holy Temple.
While the first excavations of the site began back in 1880, it was not until 2004 when archaeologists announced that they were “100 percent” confident that they had discovered the precise location of the pool.
“The moment that we revealed and discovered this four months ago, we were 100 percent sure it was the Siloam Pool,” said archaeologist Eli Shukron, who along with Ronny Reich uncovered stone steps leading from the pool to the Temple, as reported by NBC News at the time. “We know today that the Siloam Pool is connected to the Temple Mount. There is a road that connects the two elements. The entire system is clearer today.”
Shukron and Reich, working with the IAA at the time, were able to confirm the location of the pool after finding pottery shards and biblical-era coins marked with ancient Jewish writing at the site.
Biblical scholar Stephen Pean stressed the significance of the purity of the water of the pool, which was originally fed by the Gihon Spring.
“The whole point is that people will not only be healed physically but also healed spiritually,” he said. “This discovery helps bring the Gospel alive in the context of Jewish practice.”