200 Israelis visit Solomon's Pools to celebrate Passover
Published Sunday 20/04/2014 (updated) 22/04/2014 12:17
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- More than 200 Israeli Jews accompanied by Israeli soldiers visited the historic Solomon's Pools between the southern West Bank villages of al-Khader and Artas south of Bethlehem on Sunday morning, a local spokesman said.
Adnan Atallah of the local committee against Israeli settlements and the separation wall told Ma'an that Israeli soldiers escorted the settlers, who performed Passover rites near the historic pools.
Settlers also visited the Khirbet Alya neighborhood of al-Khader south of Solomon's Pools.
The visit to the site near Bethlehem comes in the final days of the Jewish holiday of Passover, during which Israeli authorities have shut down checkpoints to Palestinians for extended periods of time and have restricted their access to holy sites, such as the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem.
Visits by Israeli Jews to sites across the West Bank often cause tensions with local Palestinians, as these visits are accompanied by large armed escorts.
Solomon's Pools are three large cisterns -- each more than 100 meters long -- that were historically part of an ancient aqueduct system connected to Jerusalem.
Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent repaired the cisterns in the 17th century and built a fortress beside them, which still stands today. Many Jews, however, believe that the pools are named for the Biblical Solomon.
More than 500,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.