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 everyday) 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 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.