Because localized Mikvahs are not a given, the current revolution of building Mikvahs has seemingly gone unnoticed.
The dramatic change is due to the activities of the “Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha. Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha is responsible for building most of the Mikvahs in Israel for the past eighty years. In recent years, women's mikvahs in Israel have undergone a total metamorphosis in design and provide women with a luxurious pampering indulgement, changing the definition of Mikvah into a feminine experience. The results are astounding; many women who previously did not keep the laws of Taharat Ha’Mishpacha have undertaken to implement the basic halachot in their lives.
Recently, Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha was contacted via the organization's Facebook page. The poster is a woman from a small settlement in Northern Israel. She described in vivid language the neglected and dilapidated Mikvah in the area. She wrote of her decision to refrain from using the Mikvah due to the feelings of disgust that permeated her being after using the Mikvah. Instead of feeling pure, I felt gross and disgusted. I went home and showered to try to relieve the feeling of revulsion. After this shameful experience, I am going to quit using the Mikvah she posted. After receiving this message, Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha contacted the relevant parties to initiate the construction of a brand-new Mikvah in the settlement as soon as possible.
The minimum cost of building a Mikvah in Israel in 2020, NIS 2,000,000.00. The Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs allocates NIS 1,000,000.00 towards the construction. The renovation of an existing Mikvah is between NIS 500,000-600,000, but, the Ministry of Religious Affairs apportions only NIS 150,000 for the renewal of an old Mikvah.
The local, regional council will usually finance part of the necessary funds. However, there are many settlements and towns or even cities that will not subsidize the cost of building a Mikvah. The difficulties are intensified when we are dealing with renovations. “Since there is no budget allowance for the renovation of existing Mikvahs, most of the funding comes from the Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha,” claims Rabbi Chaim Levi CEO of Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha.” The organization usually underwrites over fifty percent of the renovation costs.”
“Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha meets with representatives of the communities that need new Mikvah’s. The needs and wants of the community are conveyed to the architectures of the organization who will plan the building to suit the specifics of the women who will be using the premises. This process often involves intensive consultations between the relevant parties, as each Mikvah is designed as a unique project, asserts Akiva Weiner, Director of Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha.
The goal of Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha is that each woman using the Mikvah should feel like she just visited a five-star hotel or spa. Mikvah attendants note that after construction of a new Mikvah or renovation of old facilities, the number of women who use the Mikvah usually doubles and in many towns even triples the previous usage," stated Weiner, adding that there are many instances of women who never kept the laws of Taharat Ha’Mishpacha implement the important halachot into their lives.
The recent inauguration of the beautiful state-of-the-art Mikvah in Azur is a typical example of the phenomena mentioned above. The number of women using the new Mikvah tripled claims Oriel Lahav. The Mikvah in Azur was over thirty years old. Two years ago, the local religious council started extensive renovations of the existing facilities. After the newly renovated Mikvah was completed, the local community was invited to see the beautiful ultra-modernized Mikvah that was built using international standards and aesthetical design. There is no doubt that our cooperation with the Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha has changed the reality, and the Mikvah Ayelet Ha’Shachar of Azur has had a three hundred percent increase of women who now use this Mikvah.
Another wonderous instance is the settlement of Achuzat Barak in the Emek Yizrael Valley. Seven years ago, after years of struggling for the necessary permits and funding, a Luxurious Mikvah was opened. Orly Nevo, the local Mikvah attendant, and Chabad Shlucha describes the tremendous success. “Achuzat Barak is home to over seven hundred families and was established about twenty years ago. There was no local Mikvah in the town, and women from the community decided to take matters into their own hands and build a local facility. We approached the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and after obtaining the necessary permits, thought that we could finally put tractors to the ground and start construction. However, the local, regional council opposed the construction of a Mikvah and refused to allow any work at the site.”
“We involved Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha, who invested hundreds of thousands of NIS, and with the additional funds that we women of Achuzat Barak raised the Mikvah was opened as a private enterprise. Since the Mikvah opened, on average, two women use it a night, and I can also retell miraculous stories from our Mikvah. There is a woman from the community who is irreligious; she struggled for years with infertility and was desperate for children. She undertook to keep the halachot; after the first time that she used the Mikvah, she became pregnant. To date, after many legal battles, the Mikvah is recognized as a public facility with a monthly average of sixty women using the premises.”
There are still many old Mikvahs that are in a dilapidated, off-putting condition. These premises cause many women to refrain from upholding the basic halachot of Taharat Ha’Mishpacha. Additionally, many small towns and moshavim don’t have their Mikvah, and women are forced to travel to neighboring towns. This causes issues on Shabbos and Yom Tov when they have no way to return home during Shabbos. Many of these women postpone going to the Mikvah or decide to skip the mitzvah without realizing the terrible repercussions that this action brings.
Building the Mikvah in Moshav Gefen, in the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, was a necessity of utmost importance. "In Moshav Gefen, there are over 450 residents. There was an over thirty-five-year-old Mikvah in the Moshav, that was very small, describes Yudit Peretz, a second-generation Mikvah attendant for more than twenty years. "The electric pump in the old Mikvah did not work correctly. Every time I wanted to change the water, I had to pump a few buckets manually. Due to the run-down state of the Mikvah, I tried my best to keep the place as clean as possible and frequently changed the water. The situation kept on deteriorating, going from bad to worse to repulsive. The only reason women kept coming was due to the warm, personalized attention that they got.
Finally, we turned to Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha; once they were involved, the long-awaited change arrived at our Moshav. Two years ago, a brand-new lavish Mikvah was opened. Each day, as I arrive at the Mikvah, I thank Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha for their assistance. The whole atmosphere around the mitzvah has changed. Women are excited to come; they are enjoying the pampering experience that they have at the Mikvah. There is no way to compare the before and after. Thanks to all those who support Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha. We continuously see an upsurge in women using the premises. We now have many women from neighboring areas who come to us as well.
A similar story happened in Rosh Ayin, shares Shula, a local Mikvah attendant. I work in the oldest Mikvah in the city, approximately three years ago, Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha undertook the complete renovation of the Mikvah. Women who come marvel at the beauty of the place. They get the feeling of royalty surrounded by splendor and grandeur. The renovation metamorphosized the Mikvah and is responsible for the positive atmosphere that is felt in the Mikvah. Women come with their daughters, who as kallah’s are being introduced to this mitzvah, and are effusive in their compliments. We have women from all sectors of society and neighboring communities coming to our Mikvah. The number of tevilos per night is continuously rising, and this proves how effective the renovation was. A woman from a neighboring community revealed that after a bad experience at the local Mikvah, she stopped keeping the mitzvah. Since discovering our magnificent Mikvah, I wait for this mitzvah. Kallos, who hesitantly come the first time, continue maintaining the halachot after having an enjoyable experience. The extravagance and lavishness create a positive pleasing atmosphere. The warmth and cleanliness define the feminine experience. It is important to note that a large percentage of women who come to our Mikvah do not identify themselves as religious, yet with true mesiras nefesh come to the Mikvah every month.”
In 2019, seventeen Mikvahs were constructed or renovated. Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha is currently in the process of obtaining permits to complete another twenty-one renovations or construction. The Mikvahs are located throughout the country. In the past few months, Mikvahs have been inaugurated in Revavah, Beis Gamliel, Even Sapir, Zeitan, Birya, and Kiryat Netafim. Construction and renovation work in Tal Menashe, Eitan, Carmi Katif, and Emunim has been started, and the construction in Avnei Chefetz, Tapuach Eitz Efraim, and other towns will commence shortly.
Weiner points out the particular importance of a modernized luxurious Mikvah for brides. “A woman's first encounter with Mikvah is on the eve of her wedding, the feelings that she experiences at this first-time encounter will have a profound impact on whether or not she will continue to keep this fundamental mitzvah. A kallah that arrives at a five-star facility, and is met with the care and concern of the Mikvah attendant will always associate this positive experience with the halachot of Taharat Ha’Mishpacha.”
" A bride that is debating whether or not to keep the mitzvah, and her first encounter with a Mikvah is an old, neglected, dilapidated Mikvah, will usually flinch and refuse to keep this important mitzvah throughout her life."
"I wish to relate a story can best illustrate the importance of a luxurious Mikvah for a Kallah who is about to keep this mitzvah for the first time in her life,” says Adi Gelbard, the Mikvah attendant in the new Mikvah of Mevoh Dotan.
“Mevoh Dotan had a forty-year-old run-down, ramshackle Mikvah. For years attempts were made to renovate the premises with no foreseeable results. Once Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha got involved, things finally started moving, and two years ago, we opened a brand-new facility.”
“I am the local Kallah teacher, one of the irreligious girls that I taught was unable to feel any connection to the mitzvah of Taharat Ha’Mishpacha. All that changed when she came to the new Mikvah before her wedding. With tears in her eyes, she confided to me that all her preconceived opinions were untrue. The experience was profound. I recently met her, and she told me that she keeps all the halachot. The new Mikvah has had an immense influence on the women of Mevoh Dotan. In the past, the Mikvah was used by three to four women a month. We are now seeing at least twenty-two women a month, exclaims Gelbard.
To date, Rabbi Mordechai Auerbach serves as president of Meraz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha and continues the work of his father, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who served as the organization’s president for twenty-five years.
Besides construction and financing - the organization deals with repairs and maintenance of Mikvahs, round the clock hotline service to provide support for questions and needs, extensive informational activities including the production of halachic materials in different languages, personal training, counseling, guidance, home visits and conferences throughout the country.
Due to the current shortage of Mikvahs, Merkaz L’Taharat Ha’Mishpacha is currently launching a unique campaign to raise necessary funds for the construction and renovation of Mikvahs throughout Israel.