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  • Writer's pictureGali Levite Leibovich

Ancient Synagogues in the Golan – A glimpse of history and into the Talmudic era.

Over the years, dozens of ancient synagogues were unearthed in the Golan region of the State of Israel. About 30 synagogues were excavated since 1967, out of the 120 ancient synagogues known to have existed in Israel. Most of the synagogues exposed are from the Talmudic period (the Byzantine era), meaning, the 4th-7thCenturies AD.

The earthquake which shook the region of the Golan Heights in the 8th Century AD, destroyed many ancient synagogues in the area. Their remnants, which serve as a testament to the life of the Jewish community, can teach us a great deal about Jewish life during that period of time.

Ein Kshatot

On the Kshatot (Arches) site, you will find one of the most glorified synagogues in the country, in which there is a "Heichalit" (small hall/temple) – a magnificent Holy Ark, adorned with an eagle and other motifs from holy temple such as the Menorah, a Shofar and a Lulav. During the archaeological excavation, one original side panel was discovered, and the rest of the structure was reconstructed and restored using advanced innovative methods. The synagogue stood in the center of a Jewish village which existed during the Mishna and Talmudic periods, overlooking the Galilee Mountains and the Sea of Galilee. When visiting, you can watch a short film depicting the restoration process of the synagogue, the village history and the community life during the Mishna and Talmudic period.

The National Heritage site of Ein Kshatot is one of the most beautiful and unique sites in the country, which presents a panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee and the Samach Stream. In addition, you will be able to hike the trails which integrate signs explaining the history and Jewish community life in the region.

In the square next to the spring, there's a pool with the remnants of three arches.

Gamla Nature Reserve

The remnants of the world's most ancient synagogue are located in Gamla. This was a magnificent synagogue built during the First Century, and was located at the entrance to the city. The remains of the Jewish city discovered here, educate us about life during the late Second Temple period, and serve as testimony to the life of the Jewish community which dwelled here during the existence of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Other attractions found in the reserve, in addition to the hiking trails include: The Dolmen Trail, the Eagles Trail, and the ancient trail leading to the old city. You can visit the observation point overlooking the remnants of the ancient city and synagogues, a bird's-eye lookout, and the tallest waterfall in Israel (51 meters). The hike in the reserve, in which the Daliot and Gamla Streams pass through, will bring about an encounter with many animals such as: foxes, wolfs, birds of prey, together with lush vegetation such as oak, Judas, and Spina-Christi trees. You will also be able to enjoy the breathtaking bloom which is typical during the spring, especially up north.

Katzrin Park

In katzrin Park you will find the remnants of the partially restored magnificent synagogue which stood here. Restored out of the two stories are only the lower floor of the synagogue and the great hall which faces Jerusalem – to the south, like most of the synagogues built in the area. Through imaging, it is possible to observe the diagram which outlines the entire synagogue. Two films that describe the prayer experience in the synagogue during Talmudic times are shown on location.

In addition, you will be able to visit the home of Rabbi Abun, which was fully restored together with all the accessories that used to be in the house, and the reconstructed olive press in which olive oil can still be produced.

The findings revealed are evidence of the settlement and Jewish community life during the Talmudic era, together with the reconstructed olive press which was their main source of income. The tour of the location includes an audiovisual presentation of the Golan Heights and the Jewish settlement in the region. Further on, you will be able to enjoy the hiking trail throughout the park, and between the basalt homes. During the Passover Chol Ha'Moed (Intermediate days), the park hosts shows for the whole family, including workshops, and guided games.

Dir Aziz

At the end of the 19th Century, a wonderfully preserved magnificent synagogue was discovered in the area thanks to the unique construction executed on the mountain side. The entrance to the synagogue faces south – to Jerusalem, like most synagogues in the area. The remains of the synagogue include columns, stones and adorned lintels, a basalt stone floor, gold and bronze coins and a golden treasure exposed in one of the synagogue's walls.

Nearby you will find a fountain with a wading pool, which was renovated by the members of the Kanaf settlement in memory of Ashi Novik, a member of the settlement who died during the 2ndLebanon War. The site is mostly accessible, and is considered as a great location for hiking and having a picnic.

Ein Nashut

In Ein Nashut, a Jewish settlement from the Mishna and Talmudic periods, you will find one of the most glorious synagogues unearthed in the Golan. The synagogue is divided into three parts, separated by columns decorated with Jewish elements such as the Four Species, a Menorah, Shofar and more. One of the interesting and beautiful findings found, is a carved basalt stone ornament, showing two Menorahs, one with nine arms and the other with seven.

Near the synagogue there is an oil press containing the crushing and wringing apparatus of the olives, and an antique museum with more additional impressive findings found in the synagogue.

In addition, you will be able to hike the route crossing the Wadi and the Hexagon stream, and enjoy the breathtaking bloom typical of the spring season.

An inseparable part of the Passover program up north is the abundance of tours which include nature hikes, history and Zionism, with professional English and Hebrew speaking tour guides. Each of the beautiful and spectacular restored synagogues are located near the hotels we offer for a family vacation during the Passover holiday.

Our accompaniment, from the moment you first consider your vacation, and up to the time you arrange the photos in your album, will provide you with great added value for your family vacation in the Land of Israel.

We will be thrilled to embark on a joint venture together with you, because touring Israel is an experience of value for the preservation of the Land of Israel, which integrates pleasure, together with the learning of values.


Meira Goren and Team

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