A Mikvah (or Mikveh), quite simply, can be described as a ritualistic Jew bath. Want to know more?
Excellent, here we go.
Used primarily by the more Orthodox Jewish communities, it is used to symbolically purify the body. According to Jewish law, a mikvah must be connected to a naturally occurring water source and it must contain enough water to fully immerse a person of average stature.
And you go in naked (just like in Japan!).
But what about that mikvah that looks like it’s in a locker room? Well if no natural water source is available, a mikvah can be filled via open-air pipes that carry rainwater down via gravity. You are not permitted to transport water to a mikvah for filling, it must be “natural” (although for some reason the water is allowed to be chlorinated).
While visiting the ancient city of Tzfat I was guided by a Hasidic man (who uses a mikvah every day) to the most ancient of all Israel’s mikvahs (supposedly).
Unbeknownst to my guide, the largest congregation of Hasidic Jews I have ever seen were barreling down on us to purify themselves in the mikvah along with their celebrity guest Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum (based on what I was told he is an anti-Zionist rabbi (thinks all the Jews should get the hell out of Israel) from Williamsburg, New York).
Many in my group were soon overrun by more Hasidic full-frontal nudity than they had ever imagined possible (and many of them will never be the same). For you devout Jews, a trip to an Israeli mikvah might be nice to add to your list, but for everyone else, there really isn’t much to see here…nothing but circumcised penises.