Photo Credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The concealed wooden doors opened to reveal stairs leading to an ancient mivkah. The mikvah is a Jewish ritual pool that has been used for thousands of years -- to this day -- for various purification purposes.

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.

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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.

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.

“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.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

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