Now you can walk along a trail that will take you past many of Jerusalem’s 200 ritual baths, which were once used to purify Jewish pilgrims ascending the Temple Mount in the Second Temple era.
A few weeks ago, with a generous contribution from Australian philanthropist Kevin Bermeister, the Israel Antiquities Authority opened a special Mikveh Trail within the park. Preserved and restored by the IAA, it consists of a well-marked path that takes you to dozens of ritual baths located on the exact route followed by pilgrims before they began their final ascent.
The idea, explained Berger, as she guided us along the trail a few days ago, is to show visitors from all walks of life what a mikveh looks like, how it was used in Temple times, and the strict rules that applied – including detailed instructions on where the water came from (rain), what to wear when you went in (nothing), and how you immersed yourself (all at once)…
The new trail begins just outside the southern wall with a view of the excavations below, including the site at which a tiny ivory pomegranate – the only relic ever recovered from the treasures of King Solomon’s Temple – was discovered. You also look down into a large plaza that, during the Hasmonean era (second century B.C.E) was actually a cistern with plastered sides. Water from cisterns like this one was piped into the ritual baths.