Jerusalem – An impressive ritual bath (miqve) from the end of the Second Temple period was recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Western Wall tunnels, in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

The miqve was discovered inside the western hall of a splendid structure that is located just c. 15 feet from the Western Wall. Parts of the building were discovered in the past and the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently exposing another one of the three halls inside it. It is one of the most magnificent structures from the Second Temple period ever to be uncovered.

The edifice is built of very delicately dressed ashlar stones and the architectural decoration in it is of the highest quality. From an architectural and artistic standpoint there are similarities between this structure and the three magnificent compounds that King Herod built on the Temple Mount, in the Cave of the Patriarchs and at Allonei Mamre, and from which we can conclude the great significance that this building had in the Second Temple period.

In his book The War of the Jews, Josephus Flavius writes there was a government administrative center that was situated at the foot of the Temple. Among the buildings he points out in this region were the council house and the “Xistus”- the ashlar bureau. According to the Talmud it was in this bureau that the Sanhedrin – the Jewish high court at the time of the Second Temple – would convene. It may be that the superb structure the

Israel Antiquities Authority is presently uncovering belonged to one of these two buildings.

According to archaeologist Alexander Onn, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “It is interesting to see that in the middle of the first century CE they began making changes in this magnificent structure – at that time it was no longer used as a government administrative building and a large miqve was installed inside its western hall where there were c. 11 steps that descend to the immersion pool. It seems that the city of Jerusalem grew in this period and it became necessary to provide for the increased ritual bathing needs of the pilgrims who came to the Temple in large numbers, especially during the three pilgrimage festivals (Shlosha Regalim). Immersing oneself in the miqve and maintaining ritual purity were an inseparable part of the Jewish way of life in this period, and miqve’ot were absolutely essential, especially in the region of the Temple.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation is mandated to uncover the Jewish people’s past to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The miqve provides further evidence of the deep ties the Jewish people have with Jerusalem and the Temple.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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