The oldest tunnel in the world adorns the entrance of Jenin

The breathtaking view of the Balama Tunnel blows one’s mind, although what has been discovered of the tunnel at the main entrance of Jenin city in the northern West Bank is only a small part of it.

For years, the Balama tunnel site was a garbage dump, until it was restored and placed on the tourist map of Palestine. Yet, finding about the entire tunnel has not taken place yet because of the high cost, so many secrets remain covered under the sand.

The Balama Water Tunnel, one of the oldest historical sites in the world, dates back to the period of 1300 BC, and its length is 115 meters. It was a waterway used by the inhabitants of Khirbet Balama, mentioned in ancient Egyptian relics. They used the tunnel to access a spring of water located inside, and was used during wars, as well as during the Crusades as a house for horses.

Khirbet Balama occupies a strategic position that controls the historic crossing point leading to Ibn Amer Plain. It is now located to the right when accessing Jenin from its southern gate.

Secrets behind a closed door

The rest of the tunnel is hidden behind a stone gate and a rocky embankment that still conceals the true secrets of the tunnel. The excavation work, according to the Ministry of Tourism in Jenin, requires geophysical tests that require considerable funding and budget, thus the completion of the excavation was halted, covering some parts of the tunnel with sand until allocating funding for the project, as it costs millions of dollars to preserve the historical monuments.

The issue of funding is an obstacle to the discovery and protection of archaeological treasures in Palestine, said Mustapha Al-Nimer of the Ministry of Tourism in Jenin. There are more than 400 archeological sites in Jenin, which need either excavation, restoration or protection.

The site of Balama was damaged years ago when flooded with water in the winter, according to Al-Nimer, which destroyed the installed extensions and some of the work that was completed. This brings us back to the issue of dealing with and protecting archaeological sites which is a major public problem.

No popularity

According to tourist sites expert Amjad Khamaysa, who works on bringing tourists to Palestine, the tunnel has not received sufficient attention that meets its importance and nature, because it does not fall within the main tourist cities in Palestine such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem or Ramallah.

He pointed out in a statement to the PIC that its presence in Jenin, which is one of the marginalized cities when it comes to tourism, contributed to ignoring it. Besides, domestic promotion of the site by the Ministry of Tourism is not enough.

He stressed the need to protect the touristic sites in Palestine, which are being looted, destroyed, marginalized and not given adequate budgets, which put these treasures under a great deal of risk.

Source: Palestine Info Center