Water of past legends is source of inspiration today: Sarah Helm in Jericho examines the links between a spring at Ein Sultan and Moses, Herod and Mark Antony

IF YASSER ARAFAT finds his new capital of Jericho too small, hot and grubby when he arrives, he should pause, as others did thousands of years ago, for inspiration besides the cool waters of Jericho's most ancient spring.

For although the size of Jericho is only a paltry 62km square, the chairman of the new Palestine National Authority has won perhaps the only prize that matters: the water at Ein Sultan.

It was this same glistening water, which pounds out of the desert ground at 1,000 gallons a minute, that persuaded early 'diaspora man' to settle here 11,000 years ago. Ein Sultan, along with other nearby springs, brought the city all its past glories, lifting the spirits of many a despondent leader, giving them power and wealth.

It was the green of Jericho, watered by these springs, that Moses spied when the Israelites sat atop Mount Nebo, across the bank of the Jordan, after wandering in the desert for 40 years. Moses never got as far as Mr Arafat, however, as God forbade him entry to the promised land. Centuries later the same springs were greening the surrounds of Herod the Great's massive Winter Palace, the rough remains of which sit just along the road from Mr Arafat's new bungalow office block, where yesterday a gardener was hastily hosing parched pot plants.

The water of Ein Sultan nourished Jericho's famous balsam plantations, which perfumed all the Roman Empire and which Mark Antony, pursuing Cleopatra, gathered up to give his lover as a gift. Suher Arafat, however, can hope for no such gift, as the plantations have long ago disappeared, nowadays it is largely Israelis who make the desert bloom around Jericho, sinking wells along the Jordan Valley.

In the 8th century, Islamic leaders made use of Jericho's spring water, building the splendid Hisham's Palace. The Omayyad prince who lived there ensured that his haven was equipped with a huge bath-house, and an underground 'cold room' with a pool.

For truly meaningful inspiration Mr Arafat should take his mind back many years before Moses, Herod, or King Hussein, to the days when the first people settled down at Ein Sultan to build the oldest city in the world.

Early man built Jericho out of nothing but pebbles, dust and water - a fact that Mr Arafat may care to note as he contemplates how to build his Palestinian institutions, how to allocate his patronage, and prepare for his Palestinian state. Mr Arafat may also care to inquire of the historians for details of the distribution and arbitration system, apparantly devised by Jericho's first inhabitants, to share out the water. By 8000 BC a community had already been created in Jericho, surrounded by a wall - the Biblical one that Joshua and his men allegedly brought down in 1200 BC.

Bearing in mind Jericho's illustrious past, Mr Arafat would do best to wipe the Ein Sultan spray from his brow and feel more confident about the future of his state. History, he should tell himself, comes knocking on Jericho's door every few thousand years, so why not now?

(Graphic omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project