During May 2004, a trial excavation was conducted in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Zefat (Permit No. A- 4159; map ref NIG 246355/763735; OIG 196355/263735), prior to construction. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by A. Ben Porat, was directed by Y. Stepansky, with the assistance of Y. Ya‘aqobi (administration) and A. Hajian (surveying).
The excavation area (14 sq m) was surrounded by residential buildings and bordered on a road (Tarpat Street). A section of a large building that dated to the Ottoman period and was identified as the Khan al-Pasha (the Khan of the Jews; ‘Atiqot 46:113–133 [Hebrew]) had previously been exposed c. 30 m east of the excavation area. Part of a cistern from the Late Ottoman period (eighteenth–nineteenth centuries CE), which was in use until the twentieth century CE, was exposed in the current excavation.
The northern part of a cistern (L1; min. dimensions 2 × 3 m, depth c. 2.5 m; Figs. 1, 2) was excavated down to a layer of mud (770.76 m above sea level, min. depth 0.8 m), which prevented the continuation of work. The eastern side of the cistern rested against two earlier walls (W100, W101), which were probably the remains of a building that was damaged prior to the construction of the cistern. The remains of the cistern’s vaulted ceiling and outer walls that supported it (W103, W105) were exposed.
The artifacts recovered from the cistern dated to within the last one hundred years and included modern finds. While dismantling a section of W105, a few potsherds that dated to the Late Ottoman period, including a Rashaya el-Fukhar potsherd, were found. Thus, the cistern could not have been built prior to the eighteenth century CE and most likely, was constructed after the great earthquake of 1837. The opening of another cistern was discerned to the west of the excavated cistern; however, no traces of a ritual bath were discovered. Similar cisterns are characteristic of courtyards in the houses of the old city of Zefat and some courtyards occasionally contain more than one cistern.