November 18, 1958
The culmination of a two and a half year project is completed with the opening of a new water reservoir for Jerusalem at Bayit Vegan. The project began in 1955 as both a means to prevent a repeat of the water shortage caused during the siege of the city during the 1948 Independence War as well as to promote urban development in and around Jerusalem. The project, which cost between 1.5 and 2 million Israeli Lira to complete was financed by capital raised through the selling of Israel Bonds.
Finance Minister Levi Eshkol opened the valve (shown in the photo above, photo Source: The Jewish Criterion) allowing water to flow into the new reservoir, the largest in Israel at the time of its construction. Minister of the Interior Israel Bar-Yehuda hoped that, “these live waters would never be needed to save the city, but to help it absorb hundreds of thousands of newcomers.”
Both the lack of and high cost of water in the city had prevented industry from developing in the capital. Attracting industry was seen as a vital step in developing the city’s economy as well as providing employment for its rapidly expanding population. In 1958, the city’s population had grown to over 150,000 people (it had been about 84,000 at the end of the 1948 Independence War). Prior to the opening of the new reservoir, Jerusalem had the highest water rates in Israel.