Friday, September 4, 2009

Bench and cat on a cistern

Come into an old courtyard off The Street of the Prophets.

In the old style, Jewish houses of 19th century neighborhoods (outside the Old City wall) were built around a central courtyard. In the winter, rainwater was collected from the roofs into the cistern.
The water was good enough for laundry, washing the floor, irrigation, etc..

Whenever you see a slightly convex paving like this in a back street or in a courtyard, you know it is the arched ceiling of a big cistern below.
At some point in modern history, I think because of epidemics, the cisterns were all locked and were no longer used.
Today, our branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has a dream. Their website says,
"In Jerusalem, some 11,000 cisterns that once provided water for tens of thousands city homes are neglected or blocked off. SPNI-Jerusalem's cistern restoration project intends to use this valuable source of non-potable water for gardens and other purposes."
Oh, and did you notice the old bench in the little garden?
Actually, this post was meant for "Bench of the Week," RuneE's pleasant Friday opportunity for sharing benches of our worlds. His lovely ones are at Visual Norway.


Kay said...

Ahhh... yes... I see the bench. Very interesting about the cisterns. I hope you're all able to put that valuable water to good use.

RuneE said...

Nothing improves a well more that a bench to watch it from! :-)

Thank you for the information - I have learned something new. I can see why they were closed and that there might be a problem with putting them into use again.

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for the interesting information. Water is so important for almost anything. Last week the inhabitants of a Dutch village were having problems with their water supply. They couldn't have water for one day, so they went to the supermarket for bottled water. This was soon sold out.

Dina said...

Hi Kay and Rune, yeah, from what I understand it is a battle against City Hall.

Wil, yes, people forget that even the stock of bottled water may run out. So many people buy bottled water here, I don't know why.
I always keep a little stock of tap water on hand, in case of emergency.

Turquoise Diaries said...

My grandmother had one in her house and we kids were not allowed to play anywhere near it.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Another interesting post. I guess that cisterns were just phased out all over the developed world. I've heard about them but have never seen them.

Un regard offert said...

On peut être fier d'être français !

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of cisterns. I was born in a house where all the water on the roof went into the underground cistern. It is soft water and requires very little additives, other than normal soap, to make a great suds. And it is best to wash your clothes in as well as your personal hygiene and the hair never looks better than when it is washed in cistern (soft) water. Our cisterns were closed when people replaced their hand pumps with electric pumps and water was delivered to the bathroom or kitchen sink. My dad has dug one or two cisterns by hand, which was the way it was done over here) and then he lined it with brick and plastered over the bricks. I filled it with broken cement and old bricks before we moved because of law suits in the even some kid got in there and drowned.

Jew Wishes said...

Wonderful photos, Dina. The post is intriguing regarding the paving and cisterns.

Shabbat Shalom.

PERBS said...

Your benches always have a neat location with a story to share. I wish you much luck in getting them restored to use soon. Blessings on the project!

Ackworth born said...

I'm intrigued by those "Wheels" - are they part of a winding mechanism for drawing water from the well?

Ackworth born said...

windlass - yes that's the word I'd forgotten.

Dina said...

Turquoise Diaries, neat that your grandmother had a cistern. Was the danger that you kids would fall in or that its roof would fall under your weight?
I worked at a dig in Jerusalem and we were warned not to walk on top of the ancient cistern. If I absolutely had to cross, I'd hold my breath. :)

Yogi, then it's time for a trip to the Mideast for you.

Un regard offert, hello, welcome. Uhh, I don't really speak French, but doesn't that mean "Proud to be French"? Je ne comprend pas. ??

Abe, thanks! You are such a treasury of first-hand knowledge. I love learning from you.
Good that you filled it in. This summer Israel had several cases of little kids falling into small deep pits and drowning in the nasty liquid.

Jew Wishes, Shabbat shalom. Yeah, me too, I love to find cisterns and always whip out the camera.

PERBS, thanks. I'll try to get more information about the cistern project.

Hi Gerald. Yes, I think you're right about the device for drawing up buckets of water. Could it be called a windlass?

Dina said...

Ackworth Born, yay, we found our word! Thanks for confirming my suspicion. :)

cieldequimper said...

Ugh when I think of what my grandparents had to do... Interesting post, we forget that turning the tap is something recent.

Jack and Joann said...

Love visiting your blog. Loved reading your post on guides that you did earlier this week. You are a storehouse of info for the whole world.

richies said...

When I was growing up we would visit my grandparents who live in rural Kansas. The had a cistern that caught the water from the roof.

An Arkies Musings

Melissa said...


I just found your blog. It is truly wonderful.

My goal is to see Israel one day, and with a blog like yours, I can almost believe I am there now.


FA said...

Shabbatt shalom to you, dear Dina!

Vagabonde said...

I did not know that there were 11,000 cisterns in Jerusalem. What a treasure this would be if they were operative. I hope that the cistern restoration project will be successful. I also hope that you will keep us informed about it.

Cloudia said...

I always discover things that thrill me here!
Shabat Shalom with Aloha

Comfort Spiral

Pietro said...

That courtyard seems really "out of the time". The cisterns restoration project is a good idea indeed.

Hilda said...

I like that idea very much! I wish SPNI much luck in the restoration project.