In a small bowl, combine dates and water; set aside to cool (do not drain). In a large bowl, cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually added to creamed mixture. Stir in dates.
Pour into a greased and floured 13x9-in. baking pan. Combine the topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.