See the Updates at the end of the article.
Jerusalem-based US Consul General Donald Blome last Friday joined “Palestinian officials and dignitaries” in launching a major conservation project to protect and preserve Solomon’s Pools, an archaeological site in Bethlehem. The $750,000 project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the State Department’s Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and a complementary $250,000 grant from the Consulate General in Jerusalem. The project will be run through a partnership with the Solomon’s Pools Preservation and Development Center (SPPD), and will help protect the historic site, which has been damaged in recent years by erosion. The US consulate is hoping the pools would encourage tourism and help the PA economy.
Now for the zinger: in his remarks, Consul General Donald Blome said, “This contribution from the US government not only underscores America’s respect and admiration for Palestinian heritage and its treasured antiquities, but also the imperative of supporting the Palestinian economy as an essential element for peace.”
“Palestinian Heritage?” Seriously?
The three large reservoirs known as Solomon’s Pools were part of a complex ancient water system, initially built between 100 BCE and 30 CE. At its high point the system was providing water to the city and Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, as well as to the desert fortress and town of Herodium. At that time the pools were fed by two aqueducts, by several springs of the surrounding countryside including one situated underneath the lower pool, as well as by rainwater that descended from the overlooking hills.
There were no “Palestinians” around throughout that period, nor in consequent years until the mid 1960s. It’s fine for the US Consul to try and help the PA’s tourism and economy, but to do so while eroding the Jewish heritage of the pools much like the Arabs have neglected and permitted the erosion of the pools and their distribution system is a slap in the face of the Jewish nation.
Solomon’s Pools were handed over to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Accords. They were originally supposed to be included as part of Gush Etzion, but the United States insisted that Israel needed to transfer a few more percents of land over to the PA, and this ancient heritage site was then lost.
Upon receiving it, the PA completely ignored the ancient Jewish site and let it fall into disrepair. Typically the only people that go near the pools are Palestinian Authority policemen who use the area area as a private hangout.
JewishPress.com made the following inquiry with State Department officials:
We’d like the State Department to please clarify exactly how Solomon’s Pools — built by a Jewish king to service the Jewish Temple in the Jewish city of Jerusalem at a point in history approximately 2,000 years prior to Arab Palestinians — could possibly be considered any part of a “Palestinian heritage.”
Considering the recent withdrawal of the United States from UNESCO, due to the one-sided and historically inaccurate positions UNESCO has taken against Israel, will Consul Blome be offering a retraction and/or apology?
The US Consul in Jerusalem sent back the following response:
Thank you for raising this to our attention. The statement you cited had been included in an earlier version of remarks, but then removed after a discussion on the history of the site. It was not delivered in remarks and should have been removed from the press release – it was left in due to a clerical error.
We are removing the press release from the website and will issue a corrected copy. Thank you for flagging.
On Sunday evening, the English-language version on the Jerusalem Consulate’s website was removed, on Monday morning the version in Arabic was removed too.
In his remarks, Consul General Donald Blome said, “We share the hope that this site can be a source of pride, hope, and discovery for people of every culture, religion, and background. Places of this sort of antiquity should stir and inspire all of us to come together and celebrate their beauty.”