At precisely 9:00 a.m. I departed from the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba and headed northeast toward the Golan Heights. My destination was an archaeological site in the southern Golan near the Israeli kibbutz of Natur.
Some refer to this site by its Arabic name of Umm el Kanatir or Mother of Arches, while others refer to it by its Hebrew name, Keshatot Rechavam or the Arches of Rechavam, named after Israeli general, Rechavam Zeevi. Both Hebrew and Arabic names reference two prominent and well-preserved Roman-era arches built over a local spring.
Keshatot Rechavam is no ordinary archaeological site. It has been identified as the site of the ancient Jewish village of Kantur and houses a spectacular and ornate Byzantine era, 5th century synagogue, some 60 feet long by 40 feet wide.
The synagogue along with the entire village was destroyed in 749 C.E. when it was struck by a massive earthquake. But the stones of the impressive synagogue remained where they fell or in archaeological terms, remained in situ, untouched for nearly 1,300 years; that is, until now.
The Golan Heights was liberated by the Israeli Defense forces during the last 48 hours of the Six-Day War. The volcanic plateau revealed itself to be not only of immense strategic value to the Jewish State but also proved to be a treasure trove for those interested in archaeology and ancient Judaica.
When I visited the Keshatot Rechavam in 2011, the synagogue was in disrepair and looked as though it had in the year 749. Large stones were strewn about and pillars, apparently meant to support a second floor or a roof, were felled. Nevertheless, there were clear indicators that the Israeli Antiquities Authority was in the process of engaging in a major restoration project aimed restoring the synagogue to its ancient splendor. Large building stones were meticulously numbered in deliberate fashion in a quest to piece together and reconstruct the building, like a giant real life puzzle.
When I arrived at the site some seven years later, I was amazed at the extent of the restoration. The ark which housed the holy Torah scrolls was completely restored and was truly a magnificent site to behold. The foundational pillars for the roof or second floor were pieced together and the walls of the synagogue had grown. Prominent arched entrances were now visible and there was even a noticeable cellar.
What truly amazed me though were the ornate engravings. There were engravings of wine jugs surrounded by wheat stalks and grape bundles, perhaps symbolizing plentiful bounty. There was an engraving of a lion biting the neck of a lamb. There were eagle engravings on the arched entrance as well as on the ark itself. Some have noted that the eagle was a symbol commonly associated with the Land of Judea.
But of even greater import were the numerous Jewish symbols engraved throughout the structure. I counted no less than six menorahs, the multi-branched candelabra used by Jews during First and Second Temple religious rituals, and still used by Jews in contemporary times during the holiday Hanukkah to commemorate the great Jewish triumph over Greek invaders in the second century B.C. But there were two particular engravings, etched on the pillars of the synagogue’s ark that caught my eye. The engravings consisted of menorah, flanked on the right by an Etrog (the fruit of a citron tree) and a Lulav (a ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree). They represent two of the four species used by the Jewish people during the festival of Sukkot. On the menorah’s left was a depiction of an incense shovel similar to that which was used by ancient priests or Kohanim in the First and Second Temples.
Though the Second Temple had been destroyed in 70 C.E., approximately 300 to 400 years prior to the construction of the Kanatir synagogue, these Jews had not forgotten their origins or history. As I noted in a previous article regarding ancient synagogues located in the Palestinian Authority-occupied city of Jericho, these structures were routinely decorated with Jewish symbols like menorahs, shofars, lulavim, etrogim and incense shovels.
While examining the engravings, I had the fortune of meeting Kanatir’s chief restorer, the chain-smoking, Turkish coffee-drinking, Yeshua Dray and asked him what he thought of the ornate Judaic engravings. “Does it not prove to the world Jewish indigenousness in the Land of Israel?” I asked. He responded that it was wrong to politicize archaeology because “beneath the Jewish civilization may lie an older one.” “That may be true,” I answered, “but how many of those civilizations still exist and still maintain the same customs and traditions after 3,000 years!” I was answered with a polite smile and a conceding shrug of the shoulders.
The synagogue discovered at Keshatot Rechavam was one of at least 25 to dot the Golan landscape. While it is certainly not the oldest – the synagogue discovered at Gamla just north of Kanatir dates to the first century C.E. – it is nevertheless magnificent, historically significant and is well worth visiting.
A 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
Sep 30, 2019 0Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign secretary, has recently commissioned a report on the persecution of Christians, most acutely occurring in the Muslim World, and especially in the Arab/Muslim...
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“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.