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09 February 2018
On the outskirts of Jerusalem a park was opened on the site of an ancient basin where the apostle Philip could baptize an Ethiopian eunuch

The Israeli Antiquities Authority last week presented the results of archaeological excavations to the public at the opening ceremony of a new natural park in the Ein Haniya source area in the southern vicinity of Jerusalem.

Scientists worked here in the period from 2012 to 2016. Earlier excavations on this site were conducted in 1929 by the Department of Antiquities of the British Mandate Authority. The young Arab archaeologist DK Baramki led the excavations, which revealed the ruins of a three-nave Byzantine basilica with rather rich floor mosaics.
The ancient basin, which is part of the church complex and is now being cleared by archaeologists, may prove to be the water body in which the apostle Philip (from the age of 70) was baptized by a eunuch - the courtly Ethiopian queen Kandakia. This case is described in the book of Acts of the Apostles - chapter 8: 26-40.
A large swimming pool is part of a complete system completed in the Byzantine period, representatives of the Israel Antiquities Authority said. In its structure, the complex is close to the "royal buildings" of the First Temple period (960-586 BC). The pool was built in the center of a spacious complex at the foot of the once-standing early Byzantine church. Around the pool were built covered colonnades. The water from the pool drained through a network of canals into a magnificent Roman fountain.

For what purpose the pool was used, scientists have not yet determined.

"It's hard to say how this pool was used - for irrigation or ablutions, was it part of landscape design? Perhaps, baptisms were made in it, "said Irina Zilberbod, head of the department of excavations of the Department of Antiquities, reports Christian Today.

Architectural fragments, pieces of Byzantine mosaic, ancient coins, ceramics and glass, also found in Ein Hanniye, suggest that during the First Temple and especially in the IV-VI centuries. AD life was a key in these places.

"I believe that some early Christian interpreters identified El-Hanniyu as the very place where the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized," says the district archeologist of Jerusalem, Dr. Yuval Baruch. - The baptism of the eunuch by Saint Philip became one of the key events in the spread of Christianity. Therefore, the definition of the place where it occurred, interested scientists for many generations. It's no wonder that part of the site still belongs to Christians and is the center of religious ceremonies, both for the Armenian Church and for the Ethiopian church. "

The three-nave church was built to the north of the fountain in the Byzantine period. Pilgrims of different ages gradually describe its destruction, despite the traces of repairs made after the Arab invasion of the Holy Land. The figure made by de Brein in 1681 shows that the pillars still survive to a noticeable height.
But even in ruined condition this place impressed pilgrims and travelers.
In the middle of XIX, the Italian priest, Father Bassi (Pellegrinaggio II, p. 274) wrote: "On our left we made our way past the ruins of an ancient church, in which three entrances from the facade, three vaulted naves and three apses that formed the back of the naves are still distinguishable. The falling walls consist of huge stones, among which you can see three door lintels. " 
A picturesque description of the source of Ein Haniya is found in the pilgrimage notes "Old Jerusalem and its surroundings" by Archimandrite Leonid (Kavelin), who served as head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem in 1863-65:
"The so-called source of St. Philip the Apostle is on his way to Gaza to the south of Jerusalem, the road to him goes past the Godmother Monastery through the pink plantations of the village of Malch, from which he is three quarters of an hour away, some visit him on his way back from the Ioannovo Desert , from which it is two hours drive away, or finally on the return journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem via Bejalla ...
There are few places in the vicinity of Jerusalem as picturesque as the source of Philip. The pond is built of yellowish stones, in the form of a niche, decorated on the sides by two pilasters of the Corinthian order with capitals in the rich carving of grape leaves. In the middle of the arch, or, as it were, the altar porch, there is a window decorated with four ogives. From underneath the lowest cornice a profuse source flows and, tearing several stones from below, springs with small cascades along the cornices and scattered stones with pleasant noise. There are ivy and other greenery on the walls of this fountain, and the very top of it, also covered with plants and greenery, ends in a ruin, for only a small part of the roof like the roof hanging above the source has escaped.
Looking at this picturesque fragment, one can not agree that these are the ruins of a fountain; a wide wall, whose sides are in ruins, columns and stones scattered by the water, and finally the clearly visible traces of another wall of the same construction give an excuse to conclude that there was a temple in the name of St. Philip and that the surviving wall is the remnant of the main altar, whose source flowed through the temple in a marble bed. Now this fountain in the wild gorge at the foot of the rock, in spite of the ruins, admires its beauty. Around grow trees and shrubs. The brook, formed by the source, runs along the valley of Sorek. On the way from the source to the Gornumu Judo, which goes through mountains and valleys, on the first mountain you see a rather large village surrounded by gardens, which also bears the name of St. Philip, and there are the ruins of an ancient church. " 
At the same time, there is an older tradition that the eunuch was baptized by the apostle Philip at the source of Ein al-Dirve (Ain Dhirve) on his way from Jerusalem to Hebron, a 30-minute walk from the Solomon Ponds. This is another road from Jerusalem to Gaza, where the apostle Philip was heading. This version is supported by a native of Palestine who knew her place well, the historian Eusebius of Caesarea (Pamphilus) (258 / 65-339/40) and an ancient mosaic map in Madaba (Madebe), created by Byzantine masters in the 6th century, which depicts a church with a round pool in front of it and signed as a place where an. Philip baptized the eunuch.

The first of the pilgrims is the written mention of this place as the source of the Apostle Philip given by the nameless traveler from Bordeaux in 333, and then by the Benedictine monk Willibald, the future bishop in Germany and the holy Catholic Church who visited the Holy Land in 724-728: to the place where Philip baptized the eunuch. In a large valley located between Bethlehem and Gaza, there is a small church, "and this is" near Bethzur. " Various authors who describe this place as Filippov's source, also mention the fountain and the ruins of the Byzantine church.
On the same source as the place of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch mentioned in the early twentieth century, Professor AA. Dmitrievsky in his book "The Feast of the Holy Trinity on the Mount of Zion at Mambrian Oak in Hebron". To quench thirst at this spring a caravan of pilgrims with whom Dmitrievsky was traveling from Jerusalem to Hebron stopped. According to his testimony, at that time a mosque was running near the source, and pure and tasty water enjoyed "the glory of very healthy water" among the Muslims.

Dmitrievsky does not indicate whether the mosque was built in the ruins of a Byzantine church or a separate building was built for it, but Muslims have long had the opportunity to pray at this source. The evidence of the Catholic priest-pilgrims of 1670 is preserved, that the church in Ein Dirva still existed; but its southern nave was used as a mosque. The guidebook "Palestine and Syria" by the German publishing house Karl Beedeker, which has survived several editions since 1875, also mentions the presence of Muslims: "... we get to the source of Ain ed-Dirweh, above which there is the house of Mohammedans and a prayer service. In the time of Eusebius, the source in which Philip baptized the eunuch was indicated here, and this is also indicated on the Madaba mosaic map. Earlier, there were traces of an ancient Christian church.
Despite the existence of two different traditions, both these sources, reminiscent of the event of early Christian history, have been visited by many pilgrims over the centuries.

In 1859, the site where the Ein Haniya basin is located, was purchased by the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Hovhannes Zmurnetzi in the ownership of the Armenian Apostolic Church, therefore the work on the arrangement of the park was carried out with the consent of the Armenian Patriarchate.

14 million shekels was spent on the reconstruction of the Ein-Haniyah natural park. As the source, once filling the pool, dried up, a unique work was done to redirect water from neighboring springs. Fountains were restored., Trees were planted, a parking lot was arranged. In this case, the restorers observed the principle of minimal intervention in the ancient landscape.

Within a few months, the entrance to the park will be free. The authorities hope that the ancient pool will become a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.

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