Beit El spring - Emil Salman - August 12, 2011
Teens enjoying the new pools built over Beit El's mysterious spring. Photo by Emil Salman
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Residents of the West Bank settlement of Beit El have been enjoying a bathing spot this summer that was discovered by chance by a group of students a year ago on the grounds of a military base adjacent to the community. The water, which was seen flowing from underground, was found near the settlement's perimeter fence by a group of students from a pre-army training program.

About two months ago, the students collected funds and bought concrete to create two bathing pools. Some Beit El residents are of the opinion, however, that the nature spot is being fed by nothing more than a burst pipe. The residents contacted local council head Moshe Rosenbaum asking that he stop what they see as the waste of water, but Rosenbaum has told Haaretz that water company Mekorot has not found a leak.

Conspiracy theories have also surfaced, based on the premise that the local council and the Israel Defense Forces colluded to head off the repair of any leaking pipes so that the water spot could serve as a source of recreation.

An expert on underground springs in the West Bank who preferred not to be identified and who has checked out the site near Beit El, told Haaretz: "We have experience with the creation of springs. There are hundreds of historic springs in this area and this is a new spring. This is an area that people have hiked through, but it's impossible for there to be a new spring without a winter with an abundance of rain. The situation in the area is the opposite. Because of the decline in the amount of rain and due to pumping, all the springs in the area are drying up. Only this spring is getting stronger."

Supporters of the new spring claim for their part that even if the source of the water is a broken pipe, it ultimately flows into the underground water table, so the water is not being wasted.

West Bank settlement researcher Dror Etkes, of the left-wing Peace Now organization, said he researched the site in the geographic database of the Israel Defense Force's West Bank Civil Administration and found that there are two water lines in the area of the pools, one belonging to the Civil Administration itself and the other to Mekorot.

Etkes called the lack of action to find the source of the water "another aspect of the distorted coexistence that has existed for decades between the settlers and the army in the territories, particularly in settlements that also serve as army bases."

Water Authority spokesman Uri Shor, said, however, that the site had been examined, that no broken pipes had been found and that the water was apparently from a natural source.