Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

1,900-Year-Old Mikveh Found in Israel — and World War II Graffiti

A highway expansion project in Israel has led to the discovery of a nearly 2,000-year-old mikvah.

Image by israel antiquites

The ritual bath was discovered at Ha-Ela Junction, near the city of Beit Shemesh, during archaeological excavations conducted prior to widening Highway 38, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a news release.

In addition to the 1,900-year-old mikvah, archaeologists discovered fragments of pottery vessels and a large 1,700-year-old water cistern whose ceiling bore graffiti engraved by two World War II-era Australian soldiers.

Assaf Peretz, an archaeologist and historian with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the soldiers left their names — Cpl. Phillip William Scarlett and Patrick Raphael Walsh — serial numbers and the date, May 30, 1940. They belonged to a division that was stationed in prestate Israel during the British Mandate and training for combat in France, but France surrendered before the troops were ready and the soldiers were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940.

The Australian unit would fought at the front in the Western Desert, Peretz reported after researching the names in the Australian government archives.

“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,” the news release said.

Yoav Tsur, excavation director on behalf of the authority, said in the release, “The finds from this excavation 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 site c. 1,700 years later and left their mark there.”

At the authority’s request,the Netivei Israel Company, which is widening Highway 38, has agreed to alter the construction plan in order to preserve the finds there and rehabilitate them.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.