Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Jesus



                                                          JOHN 9:11

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's go wash in the Pool of Siloam

Wouldn’t you have liked to follow the blind man to the Pool of Siloam?  At the time of Jesus, the Pool of Siloam would have been some 700-years-old, being built originally by King Hezekiah, when he diverted the waters from the Gihon Spring over to the western suburbs of the capital.

In 701 B.C., after 46 Judean cities had been conquered by the Assyrian army from northern Iraq, Jerusalem faced a similar fate.  But Hezekiah’s engineers had prepared the city so that the Jerusalemites had plenty of water and were able to withstand the siege.  At the same time, they blocked up the Gihon spring outside the city walls, to deprive the enemy of their abundant water supply.  After 185,000 Assyrian soldiers mysteriously perished in one night, Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, cried “uncle” and went home.
The tunnel built by Hezekiah’s engineers was eventually forgotten.  It was thought that the Pool of Siloam (Shiloah in Hebrew) was fed directly by an underground spring.  In Jesus’ day, the Feast of Tabernacles, which was like a Judean Thanksgiving, with pilgrims bringing offerings of luscious freshly harvested dates, pomegranates, grapes, figs, and olives, began at the Pool of Siloam with a joyful musical procession called Simhat Beit HaShoevah or The Rejoicing of the Water-Drawing.

During the ceremony, a designated priest, surrounded by jubilant worshippers, would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and carry it in a golden pitcher up the hill to the Temple altar.  A blast of trumpets would announce his arrival.  The high priest would then pour the Siloam water into one silver basin while wine was poured into another. To the accompaniment of flutes, the priests would sing “Hallelujah.” (the Hallel)  The celebration was based upon Isaiah 12: 3, “With joy ye shall draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

Remember, it is during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus, in the Temple courtyard, spoke of the promise of living water.  It seems likely that this is in contrast to the ceremony of the water-drawing and Jesus may have pointed to the golden pitcher as he cried out, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." (John 7: 37)
WALK JERUSALEM BY NIGHT accompanied by stories of Solomon's quarries, Solomon's stables, Solomon's porticoes, Solomon's pantry and Suleiman's dream.  And for good measure: the escapades of Charles "Chinese" Gordon, Dr. James Barclay, the Baroness Angela Burdett-Couts and Captain Charles Warren.

The tour starts at Damascus Gate and ends at Dung Gate (or vice versa). You choose the starting hour and the starting point.  For more details email Gila. This exclusive evening tour outside the Old City walls is designed for anyone wanting to stretch his or her legs around Jerusalem and enjoys good old-fashioned story-telling.  (May 1 to September 25)

After Jesus was nearly stoned in the temple precincts, he encountered the man who was blind from birth.  Jesus spat on the ground, made a mud paste with his saliva, patted it on the man’s eyes and told him to go to the Pool of Siloam.  When the man washed his eyes, he was miraculously able to see.  One of the first things in his line of vision would have been a magnificent limestone staircase leading up from the Pool of Siloam.  And that staircase, dated to Jesus’ day, has just been revealed!


Steps leading down to the Pool of Siloam excavated in 2005

Photo:  Barbara Kreiger

Steps leading down to the Pool of Siloam excavated in 2005
Note the fig leaves in the upper left corner in Greek Orthodox property

Until now, pilgrims wanting to “experience” the Pool of Siloam have either waded through Hezekiah’s tunnel or walked through the Kidron Valley.  At the end of the tunnel, there is a narrow pool, less than two feet wide, with a couple of toppled pillars from a fifth century church built by the Empress Eudocia.

Mid 19th century drawing of the Pool of Siloam

Remnant of 5th century church near the Pool of Siloam

mid-19th century drawing

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Pool of Siloam called the Virgin's Fount

Remains of the 5th century church


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A couple of winters ago, when the Turkish sewer system was being overhauled some yards southeast of the “traditional” Pool of Siloam, archeologist Eli Shukron, who has been working at the City of David for the past decade, identified two steps in the rubble.  He immediately commanded the sanitation workers to halt, so he and his colleague Ronny Reich could investigate.  This led to a spectacular find -- the revelation of the original steps of the Pool of Siloam.

This 2005 discovery is startling, for the City of David, Jerusalem’s oldest neighbor-hood, is, by far, the most excavated area in the entire country.  No less than 13 major investigations have been carried out since Connecticut Yankee Edward Robinson first explored Hezekiah’s Tunnel in 1838.  Excavators digging during Ottoman times, the British Mandate, Jordanian rule and Israeli sovereignty, have come from
the United States, England, Ireland, Germany, France, Jordan and Israel.
One early twentieth-century delegation, nicknamed the Parker Mission, bought supplies and archeological equipment by selling shares of the profits of potential finds such as David’s sword, Solomon’s crown and the original tablets of the Ten Commandments.  Had they found the steps to the Pool of Siloam in the City of David, I’ll bet that they would have begun exporting the “original formula” mud paste guaranteed to heal all blindness.  (The mission ended when Parker and his cronies narrowly escaped to Jaffa after they were discovered digging under the carpets at the Dome of the Rock!)

Hear more about the Parker Mission during Gila's Temple Mount audio tour in the company of Abraham and Isaac, David and Solomon, Jesus and the disciples, the angel Gabriel and Mohammed -- and Gila.  Meet many other luminaries, both real and legendary.

Now also available as a written 24-page PDF with a Temple Mount plan, guidelines for passing the Temple Mount security check and the ten best reads on the Temple Mount from Gila's bookshelves.

Siloam Inscription once carved towards the end of Hezekiah's Tunnel

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Siloam Inscription describes the meeting of the 2 teams of tunnelers

Despite all the archeological inquiry, another very important discovery -- the 8th century B.C. Siloam inscription -- was also found by accident.  In 1880, a 16-year-old boy playing hooky from school was swimming through the tunnel and felt the marks of chiseling on the stone wall.  The inscription, which describes the tunneling, is locked today inside an upper room in Istanbul's Archeological Museum.  I found that a generous offering of baksheesh helped to open the locked room.  (Baksheesh [$$$] is the oil that kept everything running smoothly in the Ottoman Empire!)

Siloam Inscription in Istanbul's Museum of the Ancient Orient

Photo:  Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

8th century B.C. Siloam Inscription found on the wall of Hezekiah's Tunnel

The Pool of Siloam is where I always suspected it was, covered by a lush orchard of pomegranate and fig trees.  I’m certain that delicate negotiations are being carried on at this very moment in order to gain permission to follow the steps down to excavate the pool itself. Stay tuned!  In the meantime, we can actually stand on the steps – three sets of five stairs each, separated by landings – from the end of the Second Temple period.  The staircase, about 225 feet long, has plenty of room for everyone in our group.
When you return with your family and friends, we'll follow the direction of Jesus, “Go to the Pool of Siloam.”  After a prayer for healing, we can sing Amazing Grace, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”
Postscript 2023
The eastern branch of the Pilgrims Street leading up to the Temple courtyard is now accessible.  (The western branch has been accessible for about a decade.)

2000-year-old street for pilgrims leading up to the Temple opened in 2023

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

2000-year-old street for pilgrims leading up to the Temple opened in 2023

During the feast of Tabernacles in a jubilant ceremony, a designated priest would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and carry it in a golden pitcher along these very steps (now accessible) up the hill to the Temple altar.

However until recently, steps in the other direction, leading down into the Pool of Siloam -- and the pool itself -- were blocked by a grove of fig and pomegranate trees belonging to the Greek Orthodox church.  At the very end of 2022 an agreement between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Greek Orthodox church was reached and excavations have commenced.

In April 2023 --  Beginning the exciting excavation to expose the entire Pool of Siloam

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

April 2023:  Beginning the exciting excavation to expose the entire Pool of Siloam

In the photo above, the initial stages of the dig intending to expose the complete Pool of Siloam.  At the height of its glory, the Pool of Siloam was approximately the size of 5 dunams (one and a quarter acres) and inlaid with impressive flagstones.
Stay tuned for further developments and discoveries!

Copyright 2006, 20016, 2023 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.


Coming to Jerusalem soon?  Does the hustle and bustle of the market give you a high, yet you would like some quiet moments in the holy sites?  Are you eager to eat humus and knafe elbow-to-elbow with the locals or is dining in the style of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba more to your taste?  Would you like to know more about Absalom's Monument?

Gila's Guide will lift up your spirit as you "Explore Jerusalem's Soul."  This up-to-date 46-page PDF guide gives you the Top Ten places to meditate on the Bible, the Top Ten lesser-known churches worth visiting, the Top Ten most rewarding roof-top views and the Top Ten places for sampling yummy Middle Eastern soul food.  More on Gila's Guide...

Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a Connecticut-born Yankee living now in King David's Court, has been guiding pilgrims in the Holy Land for more than a quarter of a century.  She's splashed through Hezekiah's Tunnel zillions of times, and now relishes showing second- to tenth-timers the original steps to the Pool of Siloam AND the steps leading up to the Temple Courtyard.  She is now waiting with bated breath to see what the latest 2023 excavation at the Pool of Siloam will reveal!
More biblical adventures:

Let's splash through Hezekiah's Tunnel

Let's watch David fight Goliath

Hike the Jericho Road  

Hezekiah's Tunnel

David vs. Goliath





Copyright © 2005-2024 Gila Yudkin. All rights reserved.
Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin