The Human Spirit: Hypertext Jerusalem

There is much more to our capital city than meets the eye.

‘BEST KNOWN in Jerusalem is a fifth-century Byzantine pool adjacent to the Siloam Tunnel (pictured).’ (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
‘BEST KNOWN in Jerusalem is a fifth-century Byzantine pool adjacent to the Siloam Tunnel (pictured).’
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Hypertext: On the computer screen it’s a highlighted or underlined word, phrase or chunk of text that takes you beyond the linear – giving you instant access to definitions, enriching background and more. It takes you from layer to layer of new information.
Practically everything in Jerusalem could be written with hypertext. There’s barely a rock or street in this amazing city where I live without a back story. It you could walk around virtual-reality style with a cursor and click as you go, strata of stories would open. Here are just a few examples:
Take the Ottoman period house three houses away from our apartment or the Hotel Semiramis up the street, bombed in the War of Independence. And two houses further on, the pretty synagogue built by the Jews of Amadiya, a city 1,400 meters above sea level along a tributary of the Great Zab in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Shtiblach Synagogue next to that where minyanim are always gathering in prayer. It moved from the Old City when the Jewish Quarter was lost in 1948. And this isn’t a tourist area – just a middle-class, residential neighborhood called Old Katamon (also Gonen). 
Nonetheless, the nearby Byzantine water cistern recently discovered while renovating a small and old-fashioned children’s park was startling. Who could have guessed that beneath the sandbox lay a 1,500-year-old reservoir with a capacity of more than a million liters of water?
We’ve all witnessed children’s park renovations in Jerusalem: landscaping, rubberized protective flooring and new playground equipment, make-believe castles and rocket ships and coiled slides to replace well-worn and outdated equipment. My children and grandchildren have enjoyed that park. On Shabbat it’s filled women and children of the large Erloi Yeshiva and synagogue across the street. Erloi is a haredi dynasty of Hungarian origin, which follows the teachings of the non-hassidic sage Chatam Sofer but is often considered hassidic. They left Communist Hungary in the early 1950s, first setting up their yeshiva in the Syrian Consulate.
But no children with sidelocks and vests, pretty dresses and immaculate stockings are spinning around the carousel in the park now; it is surrounded with metal barricades while its future is debated.
“It’s larger than a half-size Olympic swimming pool. The 225-square-meter cistern is 34.2 meters long,” reported The Jerusalem Post’s Alon Einhorn of the newly discovered subterranean waterway.
Ironically, the underground pool is less than 100 meters away from the recently closed Jerusalem Pool on Emek Refaim Street. It was Jerusalem’s only Olympic pool. Just a swimming pool? Not in Jerusalem. Click and you’ll find the unsuccessful public campaign to oppose the closure. Then you’ll read about the infamous protests against the so-called Breichat Toevah – The Pool of Abomination.
The 1958 JTA report:
The newly-built swimming pool in this city in which men and women will be allowed to bathe together has been sold to a group of kibbutzim affiliated with the Histadrut branch in Jerusalem, it was announced here today.
The private promoters who built the pool, which has created an international furore under the continued attacks and riots of the ultra-Orthodox members of the Neturei Karta sect, said that they sold the recreational facility because of the trouble caused them by Orthodox elements, and the repeated protest demonstrations.
The promoters are owners of two hotels in this city. In the course of the dispute, the rabbinate withdrew kashruth seals from the hotels while zealots marched up and down in front of the establishments enlisting public sympathy for their cause. The former owners of the pool expressed today their hope that with the sale of the swimming pool they will have removed doubts about their personal religious orthodoxy.
“Byzantine,” of course, is a synonym for a system or situation that’s excessively complicated with too much administrative detail.
It also means that the Jerusalem waterway was built in the fourth to sixth century, the so-called Dark Ages. Istanbul, in its Constantinople days, was built on such cisterns. We have our share. Another Byzantine pool was made public this year in Ein Hanya, in the outskirts of Jerusalem. Best known in Jerusalem is a fifth-century Byzantine pool adjacent to the Siloam Tunnel. This latest find, discovered because the sandbox sand was sinking into the earth, is a well-preserved system of cisterns, like the one in Ramla, called the Pool of Arches (also the Pool of Goats) where you can tour in a rowboat. Is that what’s ahead for the neighborhood in Old Katamon? When I walk on the undulating sidewalks I imagine gondolas sailing by.
Our country may be small, but it’s deep. All those who are so sure of simple solutions to our conflicts can’t fathom the dazzling complexity of just about everything.
For instance, here’s something you might not know about hypertext.
Its invention is usually credited to the venerated American engineer and science administrator Vannevar Bush, who headed the US Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II and became vice president of MIT. In 1945, he penned an article “As we think” in The Atlantic. But when Bush tried to patent his microfilm-indexing tool called the Rapid Selector, the United States patent office turned him down. In 1927, a Russian Jew patented a similar device called the Statistical Machine, which allowed a user to search microfilm by using a “search card.”
The inventor’s name was Emanuel Goldberg. Born in Moscow, Goldberg did graduate studies in Germany and stayed on because of antisemitism in Russia. He was recruited by Carl Zeiss to his eponymous factory for optical devices. Goldberg later became managing director of the expanded Zeiss Ikon, and designed the Kinamo handheld film camera and invented microdots.
In April 1933, Goldberg was kidnapped by Nazis. He overheard their plans to drown him in the Elbe. He, his wife Sophie and his two children fled to Paris, after signing a non-competitive agreement with Zeiss Ikon. Later, he moved to prestate Israel. Famous, he could have moved anywhere, but decided he’d already suffered from antisemitism in two countries and there was only one place to go. Sophie’s cousin Bezalel Schatz had already established the Bezalal Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Goldberg’s Instruments eventually became the basis of El-Op, and then merged with Elbit, Israel’s electronic defense electronic company, leaders today in unmanned aircraft systems. Goldberg died in 1970, having been awarded the Israel Prize.
Small but deep and hyper everything.
The writer is the Israel director of public relations at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Her latest book is A Daughter of Many Mothers.