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New finding under the Church of Gethsemane

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Fr. Francesco Patton, next to the ancient ritual bath. Credit: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

Always, when I take groups around Israel, I use to say that almost under all these places where we tour and visit, there is so much archeology just waiting to be found.

This is what happened during construction work near the Kidron valley in Jerusalem. A tunnel is being build, to connect the valley to the Church of Gethsemane, and during the construction work in the area, a unique and very interesting discovery was found: a ritual bath, a Mikveh, from the time of Jesus, from the Second Temple period.

This is the first archaeological evidence found of activity at the Jerusalem site during the Second Temple period, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Watch this video from the Israel Antiquities Authority about this exciting finding

The Church of Gethsemane at the bottom of Mount of Olives, is in the middle of that used to be an agricultural area in Jesus's time. People came there to press their olives into olive oil.

Before you produced your olive or wine in Second Temple period, you had to purify yourself in water, and the way to do that was to use a Mikveh, a ritual bath, where you could go into the water and baptize yourself before you could continue with the production of your oil.

This archeological finding connects the area of Gethsemane, a very important area with a major event in the life of Jesus, to the life of Jews in Jerusalem of that time and makes clear that this garden (today known as the Church of Agony) was a major part of Jerusalem of that time, a major agricultural part, mainly around the growth of olive tress and the production of olive oil.

When you visit today, looking at the old olive tress in the garden, remember that you are in the same exact area where Jesus was in the last night before his arrest, where Jesus prayed: "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" Mathew 26: 39

From an article in Haaretz newspaper

A mikveh dating to the Second Temple period has been found in the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Monday.

As happens a lot in Israel, it was found during infrastructure works. Specifically, builders were working on a tunnel near the Church of Gethsemane and were surprised to discover an underground cavity.

The cavity in the rock would later be identified as a Jewish ritual bath dating to around 2,000 years ago – about the time Jesus was active in the area, according to Christian tradition.

The bath was found by archaeologists working with the antiquities authority and scholars from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, a Franciscan research institute near the modern Church of Gethsemane.

Construction on that church began in 1919 and took five years. During the process the builders discovered remains of a previously unknown ancient Byzantine church dating back about 1,500 years, and a later Crusader church.

Read the rest of the article here

The ritual bath.Credit: Yaniv Berman/Israel Antiquities Authority

What a great discovery, especially in this time, few days before Christmas ! Can't wait to be able to take you there.

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