Remains of ancient synagogue found near Sea of Galilee

November 22nd, 2007 - 2:21 pm ICT by admin  

Jerusalem, Nov. 22 (ANI): The remains of an ancient synagogue from the Roman-Byzantine era have been found in the Arbel National Park in Galilee.
Dr. Uzi Leibner of the Hebrew Universitys Institute of Archaeology and Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies, led the excavations, in the Khirbet Wadi Hamam.
Dr. Leibner said that the synagogues design is a good example of the eastern Roman architectural tradition. A unique feature of the synagogue is the design of its mosaic floor, he added.
The synagogue ruins are located at the foot of the Mt. Nitai cliffs overlooking the Sea of Galilee, amidst the remains of a large Jewish village from the Roman-Byzantine period.
The first season of excavations there has revealed the northern part of the synagogue, with two rows of benches along the walls. The building is constructed of basalt and chalkstone and made use of elements from an earlier structure on the site.
Archaeologists differ among themselves as to which period the ancient Galilean synagogues belong. The generally accepted view is that they can be attributed to the later Roman period (second to fourth centuries C.E.), a time of cultural and political flowering of the Jews of the Galilee.
Recently, some researchers have come to believe that these synagogues were built mainly during the Byzantine period (fifth and sixth centuries C.E.), a time in which Christianity rose to power and, it was thought, the Jews suffered from persecution.
The excavators were surprised to find in the eastern aisle of the synagogue a mosaic decoration which to date has no parallels — not in other synagogues, nor in art in Israel in general from the Roman-Byzantine period.
The mosaic is made of tiny stones (four mm. in size) in a variety of colours. The scene depicted is that of a series of woodworkers who are holding various tools of their trade. Near these workers is seen a monumental structure which they are apparently building.
According to Dr. Leibner, since Biblical scenes are commonly found in synagogue art, it is possible that what we see in this case is the building of the Temple, or Noahs ark, or the tower of Babel.
The mosaic floor has been removed from the excavation site and its now in the process of restoration. The archaeologists at the site are also attempting, though their excavations, to gain a clearer picture of rural Jewish village life in Roman-era Galilee.
In addition to excavating the synagogue, they also are involved in uncovering residential dwellings and other facilities at the site, such as a sophisticated olive oil press and solidly built two-storeyed homes.
Participating in the excavations were students from the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, Jewish youth groups from abroad and many other volunteers. (ANI)

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