Jaffa’s ‘Clean’ Soap Factory

A surprising discovery was made in Jaffa during the construction of the Uri Geller museum. As electricians were rewiring the ancient building which will house the museum, a large chamber was uncovered dating to the Ottoman period. Uri Geller, for whom the museum is named, felt intuitively that there was something hidden underneath the rubble within the chamber. Together with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), who are overseeing the project, Geller cleared the rubble and revealed an Ottoman masbena, or soap factory.

Uri Geller Museum Soap Factory

According to Dr. Yoav Arbel, a Jaffa expert with the IAA, this is the second masbena discovered in Jaffa. The first, the Damiani Family Masbena, operated in a large vault beneath the Jaffa Museum until 1948. Although we don’t know the family name of who owned this second masbena, Dr. Arbel says it “was well preserved and included troughs for mixing raw materials for the soap, a large cauldron, a hearth, water cisterns and underground vaults that were used for storage.” Several utensils were also found including a shovel, a strainer, a wooden mallet, and even a shoe which must have belonged to one of the workers. The equipment from the two factories are nearly identical.

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