September 23, 2009
In Excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is Conducting in the Western
A large and Magnificent 2,000 Year Old Miqve was Exposed
A large and 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. 20 meters 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
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 Western Wall Heritage Foundation acts to uncover the Jewish people's
past at the Western Wall, and the miqve is further evidence of the deep ties
the Jewish people have with Jerusalem and the Temple.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall and the
holy places, pointed out the cooperation between the Western Wall Heritage
Foundation and the Israel Antiquities Authority which have joined together
in order to discover the rich history of Jerusalem there, while strictly
ensuring that no excavations approach the Temple Mount compound, contact
with which is forbidden by Halachic law.
Journalists who are interested in photographing the miqve may do so today
(Wednesday) at 11:50 AM in the Western Wall tunnels. In order to obtain
permission to photograph inside the compound it is necessary to update the
Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson (firstname.lastname@example.org) with
the film crew's details - including fax number, no later than 10:45 AM.
Click here to download a high resolution pictures of the miqve.
Photograph: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
For further information, kindly contact Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities
Authority Spokesperson, 972-52-5991888, email@example.com