(photo credit: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)
An archeological excavation near a highway construction site in Jerusalem’s
Kiryat Menahem neighborhood unearthed a rare mikve, or ritual bath, which dates
back to the late Second Temple period.
“We started [the excavation] one
week before Passover and ended the day after the holiday,” said Benyamin
Storchan, director of the Antiquities Authority excavation. Storchan said that
while multiple ritual baths have been excavated in Jerusalem in recent years,
the water supply system his team uncovered is “unique and unusual.”
ritual baths known until now usually consist of a closed cavity that was
supplied with rainwater conveyed from a small rock-cut pool located nearby,” he
said. “The complex that was exposed at this time is a more sophisticated and
The bath was apparently associated with a settlement
that was situated there in the Second Temple period.”
Storchan said the
mikve consists of a stair-accessible underground chamber that received rainwater
channeled from three collecting basins hewn on the roof of the
“Presumably, due to the rainfall and arid conditions of the region,
the inhabitants sought special techniques...
to store every drop of
water,” said Storchan.
“It’s interesting to note that the bath conforms
to all of the [Jewish] laws [pertaining to mikvaot]... like collecting the water
in it naturally, without human contact, and ensuring that the water does not
seep into the earth, which is why the bath was treated with a special kind of
The archeologist said that after the mikve went out of use, it
served as a quarry, and the water channels were filled with earth. During the
20th century, he added, the immersion chamber was cleaned and a round opening
was created in its roof in order to transform it into a
According to Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District archeologist for the
authority, the Kiryat Menahem community has expressed great interest in the
conservation of the mikve.
“The Antiquities Authority and the Moriah
Company are working to make this delightful treasure a site for the benefit of
the residents and visitors,” he said.
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