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Archeologists uncover pool believed to be site of Biblical miracle

Dig where Jesus said to restore blind man's sight

JERUSALEM -- Archeologists in Jerusalem have identified the remains of the Siloam Pool, where the Bible says Jesus miraculously cured a man's blindness, researchers said yesterday -- underlining a stirring link between the works of Jesus and ancient Jewish rituals.

The archeologists are slowly digging out the pool, where water still runs, tucked away in what is now the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. It was used by Jews for ritual immersions for about 120 years until 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple.

Many of Jesus's acts are directly linked to Jewish rituals, and the miracle of the blind man is an example. According to the Bible, the man was undergoing ritual immersion in the Siloam Pool for entry into the Temple compound, and Jesus used the occasion to cure his blindness.

In the last four months, archeologists have revealed the pool's 50-yard length and a channel that brought in water from the Silwan spring. In the past week, a section of stone road that led from the pool to the Jewish Temple was uncovered.

"The moment that we revealed and discovered this four months ago, we were 100 percent sure it was the Siloam Pool," said archeologist Eli Shukron.

"We know today that the Siloam Pool is connected to the Temple Mount. There is a road that connects the two elements. The entire system is clearer today," Shukron said.

Stephen Pean, a Bible scholar, said the pool's waters were considered so pristine they could purify even a leper.

Pean said Jesus likely chose to cure the blind man using the purest water available, because people with any disabilities were barred from the temple.

"The whole point is that people will not only be healed physically but also healed spiritually," he said. "This discovery helps bring the Gospel alive in the context of Jewish practice."

The archeologists excavating the site are with the Israeli government's Antiquities Authority. They found biblical-era coins marked with Jewish writing, along with pottery shards and a stone bottle cork -- helping them confirm the area was the Siloam Pool.

The stone-lined pool has steps leading into it from all sides, said Ronny Reich, a University of Haifa archeologist. One side of the pool, two corners, a part of the esplanade around it, and the water channel leading to it have been uncovered, he said.

Jesus, according to the New Testament, put clay on a blind man's eyes and then sent him to wash them out in the pool's purifying waters, giving him sight.

Jews, who traditionally made three pilgrimages a year to Jerusalem, would immerse themselves in the Siloam Pool before heading down the stone pathway to the temple. They also used the pool for drinking water and camped around it.

"Jesus was a pilgrim in Jerusalem . . . so this would be a natural place for him to be . . . enjoying the water supply," Reich said.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority is negotiating with the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns the land, to continue the dig. Archeologists believe the pool is under the thick green covering of an overgrown vegetable garden and several large trees.

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