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  • 1Mount Tabor/Mount of Transfiguration

    Mount Tabor

    Mount Tabor, also known as the “Beautiful Mountain” and Mount of Transfigurations in the Christian tradition, is located in the Lower Galilee, south of Nazareth and north of the Jezreel Valley.

    Mount Tabor is important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Its beautiful shape, visible from afar and its height above the valley having imparted it with importance.

    Mount Tabor is located on an important crossroad in ancient times – Via Maris, which stretches from Egypt in the direction of Damascus with roads joining it from the Jordan Valley and Acre which is on the Mediterranean coast.

    Until the Ottoman rule, Mount Tabor was covered with vegetation. During the First World War many trees were felled for the purposes of firing Turkish steam engines.  The JNF has concerned itself with planting trees on the mountain and, currently, it is covered by pine and carob trees.

    Proximate to Mount Tabor, the boundaries of the estates of three tribes meet: From the West – Zvulon, from the East – Issachar and from the North – Naphtali  JoshuaChapter  19

    The Bible mentions Mount Tabor a number of times. The most famous amongst them is the war of the Prophetess Devorah against Yavin, King of Canaan and his Minister of the Army Sisera. Judges 4 According to the Scriptures, the Prophetess Devorah instructed Barak Ben Avinoam, of the Tribe of Naphtali to convene the fighters from Israel at Mount Tabor and even ascended the mountain with them. The warriors of Israel charged from the slopes of the mountain led by Barak and Devorah onto the Canaanites who were deployed in the Valley and defeated them in the war at the Kishon River.

    Because ofו its outstanding shape and because it is observed from afar, in the Bible the Tabor serves as a symbol of power. The Profit Jeremiah presents Mount Tabor as an expression of great strength, when describing the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon to beat the Egyptians: (Jeremiah, Chapter 35, Verse 18).

    In the description of the Creation of the World it is written in the Book of Psalms: “You created North and South, Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon rejoice to be signed in Your Name as their Maker‏” (The Book of Psalms, Chapter 89, and Verse 12). The verse expresses the Almighty’s power and the act of creation, since His name and magnitude are borne from the peak of the magnificent mountains.

    Suring the Second Temple Period, Mount Tabor was one of the peaks on which beacons used to be lit וin order to inform the settlements in the area of the Blessing of the New Moon. The Jewish custom was to light beacons on high peaks to inform the distant Diaspora of the beginning of the month or of important festivals.  Mount Tabor was an important waypoint for transferring these messages.

    In the Second Temple Period, there was a bloody battle on the slopes of Mount Tabor during which Alexander the Second, the Hashmonai, was killed. Aulus Gabinius, the Roman Governor conducted this battle in which about ten thousand Jewish fighters perished.

    Christianity recognizes mount Tabor as the Mount of the Transfigurations, which was an event in the life of  Jesus, reported in the three Synoptic  Gospels (The Gospel According to Mathew 17′ 1-9, The Gospel according to Mark 9′ 3′ and the Gospel according to Luke 928‘.) during which Jesus transfigured on the peak of the mountain. According to Christian tradition, the transfiguration placed  Jesus in the same status as Moses and Eliyahu, with whom he was seen speaking, and once again  verified  his status as G-d’s  Son, as was verified in the echo from Above that was heard during the event. The three Synoptic Gospels do not identify the mountain on which the event took place by name, and it was identified for the first time as Mount Tabor in the 5th Century.

    In 1799, during Napoleon’s campaign in the Land of Israel, in the valley between Mount Tabor and Moreh Hill, “The Tabor Battle” raged, during which a French force of about 3,000 soldiers under Napoleon’s command overcame a Marmaluke force of about 20,000 soldiers.

    Mount Tabor has become a popular tourism site. Walking paths lead to its surroundings and peak. Devout Christians come to visit the churches located on its peak and to associate with the Transfiguration event that Jesus experienced there.

     

  • The Bar'am Synagogue

    The Bar’am Synagogue

    Kefar Bar’am was a Jewish settlement on a hill, 755 meters above sea level, in the Upper Galilee region, currently close to the Lebanese border.  Apparently it went into ruin during the Mameluke Period. Over the years Maronite Arabs settled there. The ruins of the Maronite village, Biram, are still in the confines of the National Park. In 1948, for security reasons, its inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes under the orders of the IDF {Israel Defense Forces} and never returned to it, despite promises from the security system. At the top of the hill a church nestles, which serves the Christian community, currently residing in the nearby village of Jish.

    During the Fourth and Fifth Centuries there was an impressive community here, which is evident for the structure of the beautiful synagogue built from large granite rocks.

    Similarly to most synagogues, here too, there are three well-preserved openings at the front facing Jerusalem, enveloped by stone carvings. The main opening is highly impressive and beautiful.

    Today, the synagogue is preserved. The structure is rectangular with a length of 20 meters {66 feet} and a width of 15 meters {50 feet}. The openings face Jerusalem, but, in contrast to other synagogues in the north, 6 columns can be seen in the facade here {portico}. 

    The site also featured a smaller synagogue that was destroyed without almost any surviving remains. It also faced Jerusalem and was planned similarly to the other synagogues in the Galilee.

    The lintel of the synagogue was found and is currently exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

    The following text is on the lintel:  

     “May there be peace on this place and in all the places in Israel. Yose the Levite, son of Levi made this lintel. May his deeds be blessed.”

     

     

  • Khirbet Queiyafa

     

    Khirbet Qeiyafa (the Elah Fortress) 

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    Khirbet Qeiyafa was established on a hill east of Tel Azekah, north of Tel Socho  and above the Elah Valley, where David slew Goliath.

    The hill is remarkable for its architectural and historical importance and its conspicuous location in the area, about 350 meters above sea level {about 1,000 feet}. The hill controls the road from the Shefela {the low land} on the way to Hebron and Jerusalem.

    The site has been known since the 19th Century and the French explorer, Victor Guerin, mentioned it a number of times. The site was also excavated during the 2000s. An amazing finding of olive pits that was carbon-dated to the King David period {1040-970 BCE}, has accelerated the excavation work.

    Apparently, the original settlement {10th Century BCE} lasted about 20-25 years before being destroyed.

    Khirbet Qeiyafa was identified as the Biblical Shaarayim from the beginning of the 10th Century BCE. The upper-most layers were found to be layers from the Hellenistic   and later periods. The site was fortified with a double defensive wall as was discovered in other Jewish sites fortified with the same wall. In contrast to the other sites, here two gates were discovered in the wall which had a width of 4.5 meters {about – 15 feet} and an original height of about 6 meters  { about 20 feet}. Today the height of the remnants of the wall are about 3 meters. The rocks in the wall weigh about 4 tons.

    It is possible that the two doors are the source of the name “Shaarayim” (the Hebrew word for two gates). The western gate has a width of about 11 meters {36 feet}, which is proof of its size and magnitude. The southern gate {the gate to the city} is the most fortified amongst the Biblical Period sites. No other Biblical site with two gates (“shaarayim”) has been found.

    Shaarayim is mentioned three times in the scriptures,

    1. Joshua 15′ 36′. The list of cities of the Tribe of Judah in which Socho and Azeka are mentioned
    2. 1st Samuel 17′ and Chapter 52′ The story of David and Goliath The Philistines retreated to Gat and Ekron through Shaarayim
    3. 1st Chronicles 4′ 31′ A list of cities of the Tribe of Shimon. {Simion}

    All these references are from the pre first Temple Period from the King Solomon era and the name Shaarayim does not appear again afterwards, which verifies the fact that this is indeed the site of the Biblical Shaarayim that was destroyed in the 10th Century BCE. 

    The site was planned with excellent architecture. On each side of the gate, after each terrace of 5 houses there is a square.

    At the site a circular building was also discovered {about – 1000 square meters}, which apparently served as the governor’s palace.

    The archeological excavations prove that reference is to the King David Period and that reference is to a strong and influential Kingdom of Judah.

    Similarly to other sites that have been proven to be Jewish settlements {like Beth Shemesh}, here too pig bones were not found and no Philistine findings were discovered.

    Indubitably, the most important discovery is the Hebrew inscription which is thought to be the most ancient discovered.

    This is an Ostracon 16X15 cm {about 6.5X5.5 inches} in size and the inscription is between 5 tows in ancient Hebrew, which constitutes proof that Hebrew script preceded the 10th Century BCE. Out of the 18 words that appear on the Ostracon, 8 words appear only in the Bible.

    It is important to note that archaeologists tended to think that the Bible was not written before the 7th Century BCE, because Hebrew script did not exist at the time. This Ostracon refuted this claim and indicates that the Hebrew language already appears in the King David Era.

    כתובת נכונה כתובת

    There are a number of assumptions and academic arguments regarding the interpretation of the inscription.

    One of them {in Hebrew}

     

    (A number of rows are missing)
    אל תעש: ועבד א[ת]…
    שפט עבד ואלמנ (ה) שפט ית[ם]
    וגר רב עלל רב דל ו
    אלמנ (ה) נקם *יבד (=ביד) מלך.
    אבינ ועבד שכ גר תמ[כ]

     

     

    The English translation:

    1 Do not oppress, and serve God … despoiled him/her

    2 The judge and the widow wept; he had the power

    3 over the resident alien and the child, he eliminated them together

    4 The men and the chiefs/officers have established a king

    5 He marked 60 [?] servants among the communities/habitations/generations

    An additional inscription that was only published in 2015 is the inscription of Eshba’al Ben Beda. The inscription was found on a jar in one of the rooms in which many relics were found.

    The inscription was dated to the 9 or 10th Century BCE and the name Eshba’al is given to a number interpretations such as King Eshba’al, the son of Saul, who was assassinated and decapitated.

    In 2nd Samuel, the name Eshba’al, which is reminiscent if the Canaanite god was changed “Ish Boshet”. It is also possible that the name belonged to an estate owner, who delivered his merchandise in jars.

     

     

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