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October 7, 2015 / 24 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mikveh’

2,000 Year Old Mikvah Found Beneath Jerusalem Living Room

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Beneath a modern living room floor in the quaint and flowering Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem lies Judaism’s ancient secret to family purity.

During recent renovations carried out in that living room, however, the family living in the home discovered the secret beneath their home and called the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The IAA archaeologists were amazed to find a pair of wood doors beneath the stylized rug in the pleasant family living room, concealing a 2,000 year old mikvah (Jewish ritual pool used for purification.)

Today (Wednesday, July 1) the owners of the home were awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Israel Antiquities Authority for reporting their discovery and contributing to the study of the Land of Israel.

The mikvah is complete and quite large, measuring 3.5 meters long x 2.4 meters wide x 1.8 meters deep. It is rock-hewn and meticulously plastered in accordance with halacha (Torah law), and includes stairs leading to the bottom of the immersion pool similar to the mikvahs of today.

The rock-hewn stairs discovered under the living room floor lead down into the mikvah, the pool of ritual waters, as today.

The rock-hewn stairs discovered under the living room floor lead down into the mikvah, the pool of ritual waters, as today.

Pottery vessels dating to the time of the Second Temple (1 CE) and traces of fire that might constitute evidence of the destruction of 66-70 CE were discovered within the pool.

In addition, fragments of stone vessels were also found, which were common during the Second Temple period because stone cannot be contaminated; it is known to remain pure.

According to Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District archaeologist, “Such instances of finding antiquities beneath a private home can happen only in Israel and Jerusalem in particular. Beyond the excitement and the unusual story of the discovery of the mikvah, its exposure is of archaeological importance.

“Ein Kerem is considered a place sacred to Christianity in light of its identification with “a city of Judah” – the place where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born and where his pregnant mother Elisabeth met with Mary, mother of Jesus,” the archaeologist explained.

“Despite these identifications, the archaeological remains in Ein Kerem and the surrounding area, which are related to the time when these events transpired (the Second Temple period), are few and fragmented. The discovery of the ritual pool reinforces the hypothesis there was a Jewish settlement from the time of the Second Temple located in the region of what is today ‘Ein Kerem.”

The owners of the place said, “Initially, we were uncertain regarding the importance of the find revealed below our house and we hesitated contacting the Israel Antiquities Authority because of the consequences we believed would be involved in doing so.

Gazing at this cozy living room one would never suspect that beneath the small throw rug lies the entrance to a 2,000 year old mikvah, a Jewish ritual pool of purification.

Gazing at this cozy living room one would never suspect that beneath the small throw rug lies the entrance to a 2,000 year old mikvah, a Jewish ritual pool of purification.

“At the same time, we had a strong feeling that what was situated beneath the floor of our house is a find of historical value and our sense of civic and public duty clinched it for us. We felt that this find deserves to be seen and properly documented. We contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority at our own initiative in order that they would complete the excavation and the task of documenting the discovery.

Washington, D.C. Rabbi Arrested for Mikveh-Voyeurism

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

If the charges brought against a Washington, D.C. rabbi are true, the stain against him and the shadow cast by the accused wrongdoing will be long and hard to remove.

The rabbi of the Modern Orthodox Kesher Israel, also known as the “N” Street shul, has been charged with installing an electronic camera in the mikveh building and using or intending to use the camera to see the women as they prepare to immerse themselves monthly in the ritual bath as is commanded in the Torah. The mikveh is also used on certain occasions by men.

Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel was suspended without pay by Kesher Israel’s board of directors after he was arrested and charged with voyeurism, allegedly using cameras to spy on women in the mikveh.

A police report obtained by the Washington, D.C. Fox affiliate alleges that Freundel was installing a camera hidden in a clock radio above a shower at the mikveh. The rabbi allegedly told the person who caught him that he was fixing the shower’s ventilation system.

The Washingtonian reported that police carried computers and other objects out of the rabbi’s home, which is a few blocks from the synagogue.

If there is anything positive to make of such a story, it is that upon learning of the reported inappropriate conduct, the congregation alerted the authorities, rather than try to sweep the ugliness under the rug. Too often certain religious communities turn inward at such a time and deal with the situation by removing the alleged transgressor from its midst, which simply exports the potential evil to another community.

The board of directors of Kesher Israel released the following statement on Tuesday, Oct. 14:

This is a painful moment for Kesher Israel Congregation and the entire Jewish community.  At this challenging time, we draw strength from our faith, our tradition, and our fellow congregants.

Upon receiving information regarding potentially inappropriate activity, the Board of Directors quickly alerted the appropriate officials.     Throughout the investigation, we cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so.

After today’s arrest of Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel, the Board of Directors suspended him without pay.  As always, Kesher Israel will remain open as a place of learning, prayer, and community, including throughout the remainder of the Sukkot holiday.

This is a very difficult time for all of us.  We respectfully request that our community be granted privacy.  Any further questions should be directed to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Freundel, 62, has been the rabbi at Kesher Israel for 25 years. He is also the vice president of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington and is a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.

Freundel is scheduled to appear in court in Washington today, Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Archaeologists Uncover Tale of Ancient Mikveh and WWII Australian Soldiers

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Archaeologists excavating a construction site near the Ha’Ela Junction have uncovered a curious tale that entwines the fate of an ancient mikveh with that of two Australian soldiers who somehow ended up in the same spot in World War II.

The ancient ritual pool (“mikveh” in Hebrew) was recently uncovered at the Ha’Ela Junction during the routine excavations that are always carried out prior to construction in Israel, in this case to widen Highway 38.

Nearby, an enormous 1,700-year-old water cistern was also revealed, with graffiti scrawled on the ceiling of the reservoir, apparently by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The excavations are being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority and are financed by the Netivei Israel Company, which is involved in the construction.

Yoav Tsur, IAA excavation director at the site, explained, “We exposed a mikveh in which there are five steps, with the fifth step being a bench where one could sit at the edge of the immersion pool.

“We found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there, dating to the second century CE – among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug and cooking pots.

“Apparently the mikveh ceased to be used during the second century CE, perhaps in light of the Bar Kokhba revolt.

“A rock-hewn opening was exposed south of the mikveh, which appears to have been the entrance to a large water cistern. It seems that in an early phase it was a smaller reservoir and functioned as the “otzar) (water collection area) for the mikveh. When the mikveh ceased to be used, the cistern’s original cavity was increased to its current large dimensions and an extensive surface was built nearby, which facilitated drawing water.”

The archaeologists were also surprised to find during their excavations some graffiti engraved on the ceiling of the cistern, indicating that the site had been exposed at least until the 1940s.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

Graffiti carved into ceiling of ancient cistern by Australian soldiers during World War II.

The inscriptions were read by Assaf Peretz, an archaeologist and historian with the Israel Antiquities Authority, who said that two English names were carved in the rock: Cpl Scarlett and Walsh.

“Next to the names are caved the initials RAE and two numbers: NX7792 and NX9168. The date 30/05/1940 appears below the graffiti.”

The IAA inquired with authorities who confirmed that the numbers engraved in the cistern were indeed serial numbers of two actual soldiers, and that RAE stands for Royal Australian Engineers.

A search in government archives revealed that Corporal Philip William Scarlett was born in Melbourne in 1918, was drafted into the army in 1939, survived the war and died in 1970, shortly before his fifty-second birthday.

His comrade, Patrick Raphael Walsh, was born in 1910 in Cowra, was drafted in 1939, survived the war and passed away in 2005 at the age of 95.

It seems the two were members of the Australian Sixth Division. They were stationed in the country at the time of the British Mandate and undergoing training prior to being sent into combat in France.

Because France surrendered before the troops were ready they were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940 where they fought at the front in the Western Desert.

The archaeologists added, “If the relatives of these people are acquainted with the story, we’ll be happy if they contact us and we’ll share with them the warm greetings left behind by Scarlett and Walsh.”

Tsur pointed out that the finds from the excavation tell an exciting tale indeed: they “allow us to reconstruct a double story – about the Jewish settlement in the second century CE, probably against the background of the events of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and another story no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the [same] site c. 1,700 years later and left their mark there.”

Ancient Mikveh Discovered In Spain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

A 15th century mikveh was discovered at the location of the last synagogue in the old Jewish quarter of Girona in Catalonia, Spain.

The discovery of the Jewish ritual bath is significant since there are very few preserved mikvehs left in Europe, and it further highlights the importance of Girona’s rich Jewish heritage.

Girona is a town near Barcelona which was known for its thriving Jewish community before the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492.

A recent archeological dig permitted the discovery of the mikveh at the site of the synagogue, which was founded in 1435 and abandoned in the summer of 1492, when the expulsion decree was carried out by King Fernando against the Jews of Spain .

It forced the community of Girona, consisting of about 20 families, to sell the synagogue along with the surrounding community spaces before fleeing the country. Thanks to records of the sale, the exact location of the synagogue, which now houses the Museum of Jewish History in Girona, is known.

Israeli ambassador to Spain  Alon Bar attended the public presentation of the finding, along with the Minister of Culture of the Government of Catalonia Ferran Mascarell, and Girona Mayor Carles Puigdemont.

“I commend the discovery of more evidence of a Jewish presence and want to encourage this cultural treasure in order to maintain links between our peoples,” said Bar.

According to officials at the museum in Girona, very few ritual baths of this type have been preserved in Europe and in the Mediterranean area; they have been found in Sicily, Montpellier, and Besalu which is also in Catalonia.

‘Purity Patrol’ Helps Snowbound Women Reach the Mikveh

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The Taharat HaBayit organization has been using a 4-wheel-drive jeep to take snowbound women in Jerusalem to the local mikveh, the ritual immersing pool.

“The organization’s top priority is raising awareness to the importance of the family purity mitzvah,” the organization’s chairman, Rabbi Yechezkel Mutzafi, explained to the Hebrew-language Yediot Acharonot’s website.

“We see it fit to operate even with such serious conditions like rainy weather and heavy snow, so that as many women as possible adhere to purity laws and manage to reach the mikveh in the easiest and most convenient way.,” he said.

Yahrzheit Today for Dr. Applebaum and Daughter Nava

Monday, August 19th, 2013

A Palestinian Authority suicide bomber ten years ago Monday night, on the Hebrew calendar, exploded his charge and killed seven people, including American Israelis Dr. David Applebaum and his daughter Nava the evening before her wedding date.

Slightly less than two years ago, Palestinian Authority terrorist Ibrahim Muhammad Yunus Dar Musa, who helped plan the gruesome murders, was among more than 1,000 terrorists and security prisoners whose prison sentences were cut short in order to enable the safe return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Dar Musa was sentenced to only 17 years in jail for organizing the suicide bombing. Dr. Applebaum, a native of Detroit and an ordained rabbi, headed a hospital emergency room and had developed new methods for treating suicide bombing victims.

He was walking into Jerusalem’s Hillel restaurant with his 20-year-old daughter, born in Cleveland, when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

Several hours earlier, Nava immersed herself in a mikveh ritual bath, as is required prior to a wedding, which in this case never took place.

The security guard at the restaurant, warned by intelligence officials of a possible terrorist attack, spotted the suicide bomber but did not want to shoot him in the back, fearing that the bullet would set off the bomb.

Mother and Fighter for Religious Tolerance Quits Beit Shemesh

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Two years ago, Hadassa Margolese became a symbol of resistance to Haredi Orthodox domination after she allowed her 8-year-old daughter to tell an Israeli reporter how religious men had spit on her as she walked to school.

The report made headlines around the world and cast Margolese into the spotlight as a defender of the rights and values of the Modern Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh, a city of approximately 75,000 just off the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a growing Haredi population.

Now Margolese has departed Beit Shemesh — driven out not by the Haredim with whom she once clashed but by members of her own modern Orthodox community.

In May, Margolese published a column on the website of the Israeli daily Maariv detailing the degrading treatment she had endured during her monthly visits to a public mikveh, or ritual bath, a practice required by religious laws on marital intimacy. But rather than rally around her as it did in 2011, some in the modern Orthodox community turned on Margolese, subjecting her to a steady stream of online vitriol.

“I was airing our own dirty laundry as opposed to before, when I was airing another community’s dirty laundry,” she said. “I hear from so many women about their negative experiences [at the mikveh]. I thought people would say, ‘Yes, let’s change this.’ ”

Margolese, 32, is something of a reluctant activist. Unlike many Israeli social reformers, who aggressively seek media attention and speak in confident tones, Margolese is quiet and unassuming, cautious of offending friends and guarded when it comes to her personal life.

She assumed the protest mantle two years ago, she says, mainly out of necessity. And from the time that conflict died down until the mikveh column, she largely retreated into private life, visiting Beit Shemesh’s Haredi neighborhoods only when necessary.

“I really have very mixed feelings about it because I want to make whatever changes I can possibly make, but on the other hand, being a public figure isn’t so simple,” she said. “Really the only way to change things is by being public. If you’re not public, nobody cares what you have to say.”

Born in Los Angeles, Margolese came to Israel at the age of 2. A self-identified feminist, Margolese says inequalities between men and women in Judaism have bothered her since she was a child, when she began to question why Orthodox men bless God each morning for not making them women. She apparently did not know or did not accept modern orthodox explanations that the blessing is not anti-feminist and in fact is an expression of thanks by men that they can perform mitzvahs that women are not required to keep.

Margoles now is living a more tranquil life in a town of secular and modern Orthodox families she prefers not to name. She plans to continue to be active on the mikveh issue, though in a more circumscribed way, conducting low-key meetings with activists and politicians, and confining her writing to her blog.

“I’d like to be a social activist,” she said. “I don’t think I have a thick enough skin to be a politician.”

In her mikveh column, Margolese described the way mikveh supervisors would question her Jewish observance and stare at her as she entered and left the water naked. An attendant would interrogate her about how thoroughly she cleaned herself and demand that she return to the sink for another wash.

“I’m supposed to feel clean after the mikveh,” Margolese wrote, “but instead I feel degraded and dirty.”

Soon after the column was published, Margolese was at a meeting of the Knesset Caucus for the Advancement of Women. She planned to stay afterward to meet politicians sympathetic to her cause, but shaken by a stream of negative comments being posted to her Facebook wall — some of them by friends — she left early.

“The humiliation I felt from these individuals was worse than all of my negative mikveh experiences all put together,” Margolese wrote on her blog. “I knew about the gossip going on around me. I cried for days. I couldn’t breathe. I stopped leaving my house other than to go to work. I decided that it is time to move.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/mother-and-fighter-for-religious-tolerance-quits-beit-shemesh/2013/08/14/

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