Ancient synagogues in Israel

Ancient synagogues in Israel refers to synagogues in the modern State of Israel, built by the Jewish and Samaritan communities from antiquity to the Early Islamic period.

The designation ancient synagogues in Israel requires careful definition. Many very old synagogues have been discovered in archaeological digs. Some synagogues have been destroyed and rebuilt several times on the same site, so, while the site or congregation may be ancient, the building may be modern.

Archaeologists have uncovered many remains of synagogues from over two thousand years ago, including several that were in use before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Synagogues securely dated to before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem include the Migdal Synagogue, the synagogue of Capernaum, the Herodium synagogue, the synagogue of Qumran, and the small synagogue at the top of Masada.

Ruins of the Ancient Synagogue at Bar'am
Ruins of the ancient synagogue of Kfar Bar'am in the Galilee.

Modi'in synagogue (2nd century BCE)

Discovered between Modi'in and Latrun is the oldest synagogue within modern Israel that has been found to date, built during the second century BCE.[1] It includes three rooms and a nearby mikve.

For the nearby Qiryat Sefer/Modi'in Illit synagogue (1st century BCE), see here and here.

Nabratein/Naburiya synagogue

Naburiya was a Jewish village in the Galilee during the First and Second Temple periods. Neburaya is believed to be identical with Nabratein, a location north of Safed where Eleazar of Modi'im and Jacob of Kfar Neburaya, a compiler of the Haggadah, are buried.[2]

The remains of the Nabratein synagogue, discovered in archaeological excavations, indicate that it is one of the oldest in the Galilee. The original synagogue was enlarged during the third century and destroyed in an earthquake in 363 CE. In 564, the synagogue was rebuilt. The date is known from the inscription over the main door, now displayed at the Israel Museum: "Built four hundred and ninety four years after the destruction of the Temple under the leadership of Hanina ben Lizar and Luliana bar Yuden [92 BCE]." The second-phase building stood until 640 CE. The façade was partially reconstructed by the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Antiquities Authority.[3]

Synagogues rebuilt on ancient sites

Several synagogues in Israel are located on the sites of far older synagogue buildings but, because the older buildings were destroyed by non-Jewish rulers of the city, the present buildings are reconstructions.

Ancient synagogue sites









  • Jafia






  • Qiyuma






  • Weradim


  • Zumeimira

See also


  1. ^ Israel Antiquities Authority
  2. ^ Jacob of Kefar Neburaya
  3. ^ Naburiya Synagogue
  4. ^ Ancient Mosaic Pavements: Themes, Issues, and Trends: Selected Studies
  5. ^ Meroth at The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website
  6. ^ Marot (sic!) at Wkimapia
Ancient synagogues in Palestine

Ancient synagogues in Palestine refers to synagogues and their remains in the region commonly referred to as Palestine, built by the Jewish and Samaritan communities from the time of the Hasmonean dynasty during the Late Hellenistic period, to the Late Byzantine period.

Aniconism in Judaism

Aniconism in Judaism covers a number of areas. The portrayal of YHWH in any kind of human or concrete form is not encouraged.

Anim synagogue

Anim Synagogue, a 25 km (16 mi) drive away northwest of Arad, was an ancient synagogue in use during the 4th–7th centuries CE. The site is recognized as a National Heritage Site of Israel. It is located in the Yatir Forest, immediately south of the Green Line, in Israel.


Arbel (Hebrew: אַרְבֵּל) is a moshav in northern Israel. Located on Mount Arbel next to the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias, it falls under the jurisdiction of Lower Galilee Regional Council. In 2018 its population was 738.Arbel was established in 1949 by demobilized soldiers on the lands of the depopulated Arab-Palestinian village of Hittin. It was initially a moshav shitufi, but became a moshav ovdim in 1959.

Beit Shearim

Beit She'arim (Hebrew: בית שערים), also (Hebrew: בית שריי), Kh. Sheikh Abreiḳ (Arabic: شيخ ابريق‎), is a Roman-era Jewish village (now ruin) that thrived from the 1st-century BCE until its demise in the early 20th century. It is first mentioned by Josephus as Besara (Greek: Βήσαραν; Βησάρα), a place then serving as the administrative center of the estates of Queen Berenice (daughter of Agrippa I) in the Jezreel Valley. The village seemed to have been of agricultural importance, as it was being used to store the harvested grain of the neighboring towns and villages. By the mid-2nd century, the village had become the seat of the rabbinic synod under Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. The site is situated on the spur of a hill about half a kilometer long and 200 meters wide, and lies in the southern extremity of the Lower Galilee mountains, facing the western end of the Jezreel Valley, east of Daliat el-Carmel, south of Kiryat Tivon, and west of Ramat Yishai. It rises 138 metres (453 ft) above sea level at its highest point.

Adjoining the village on its northwest side is a necropolis, situated in a valley, which rose to prominence largely due to Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (compiler of the Mishnah) who was interred there. In the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, Beit Shearim became a popular place for Diaspora Jews to send their dead for burial. In 2015, the necropolis, known as the Beit She'arim National Park, was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Beth Alpha

Beth Alpha (Hebrew: בית אלפא‎; Bet Alpha, Bet Alfa) is a sixth-century AD synagogue located at the foot of the northern slopes of the Gilboa mountains near Beit She'an, Israel. It is now part of Bet Alfa Synagogue National Park and managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.


Capernaum ( kə-PUR-nee-əm, -⁠nay-əm; Hebrew: כְּפַר נַחוּם‎, romanized: Kfar Naḥūm, lit. 'Nahum's village'; Arabic: كفر ناحوم‎, romanized: Kafr Nāḥūm) was a fishing village established during the time of the Hasmoneans, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had a population of about 1,500. Archaeological excavations have revealed two ancient synagogues built one over the other. A house turned into a church by the Byzantines is believed to have been regarded as the home of Saint Peter.

The village was inhabited continuously from the 2nd century BC to the 11th century AD, when it was abandoned sometime before the Crusader conquest. This includes the re-establishment of the village during the Early Islamic period soon after the 749 earthquake.


Chorazin (; Hebrew: כורזים‎, Korazim; also Karraza, Kh. Karazeh, Chorizim, Kerazeh, Korazin) was an ancient village in the Korazim Plateau in the Galilee, two and a half miles from Capernaum on a hill above the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Henry S. Frank Memorial Synagogue

The Frank Memorial Synagogue is a synagogue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, named after philanthropist Henry S. Frank.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.The synagogue was built in 1901 on the grounds of the Jewish Hospital of Philadelphia, now the Albert Einstein Medical Center.The architect, Arnold W. Brunner, was inspired by the recent publication of images of several Roman-era synagogues in Israel, particularly the handsome and largely intact synagogue at Kfar Bar'am. Several synagogues had been studied by the British Palestine Exploration Fund and illustrations were published in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

The Frank Memorial synagogue replicated the round arch of the door of the standing ruin at Kfar Bar'am, and the lintel from the smaller synagogue at Kfar Bar'am that is now in the Louvre. The inscription on the lintel is taken from that inscription and reads, in Hebrew, "Peace be upon the place, and on all the places of Israel." Over the door is a seven-branched Menorah in a wreath, copied from the ancient Nabratein synagogue. The synagogue's floors are set with mosaics, although it was built before mosaic synagogue floors had been discovered in ancient synagogues in Israel.The supervising architect was Frank Furness, who had been the principal architect of the Jewish Hospital since 1871.

Kafr 'Inan

Kafr ʿInān (Arabic: كفر عنان‎), was a Palestinian Arab village in the Acre Subdistrict around 33 kilometres (21 mi) east of Acre. Until 1949, it was an Arab village built over the ruins of ancient Kefar Hanania. Archaeological surveys indicate the village was founded in the early Roman period, and was inhabited through the Byzantine period. It was resettled in the Middle Ages and the modern era.Captured by Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli war, many of the villagers fled the fighting. Those few hundred who managed to remain or to return were subsequently transferred out of the village by the Israel Defense Forces to the West Bank or to other Arab towns in the newly established Israel on three separate occasions in January and February 1949.A shrine for the Sheikh Abu Hajar Azraq and the remains of a small domed building are still standing, along with the remains of various burial sites of rabbis. Archaeological remains include cisterns and domestic wells which supplied the village with drinking water from nearby springs. In 1989, the Israeli village of Kfar Hananya was established on village land on a hill adjacent to the village itself.

Kfar Bar'am

Kfar Baram (Hebrew: כְּפַר בַּרְעָם), is the site of an ancient Jewish village. It is situated near to the site of Kafr Bir'im or Kafar Berem, a medieval Maronite Christian village. Today, it is located in Northern Israel, 3 kilometers from the Lebanese border.

Maon Synagogue

This article deals with the ancient Maon Synagogue from the Negev, not with the ancient Ma'on Synagogue from the Southern Hebron HillsThe Maon Synagogue is a 6th-century synagogue and archaeological site located in the Negev Desert near Kibbutz Nirim and Kibbutz Nir Oz. It is noted for its "magnificent" mosaic floor.


Tel Maresha (Hebrew: תל מראשה‎) is the tell (archaeological mound) of the biblical Iron Age city of Maresha, and of the subsequent, post-586 BCE Idumean city known by its Hellenised name Marisa, Arabised as Marissa (ماريسا). The tell is situated in Israel's Shephelah region, i.e. in the foothills of the Judaean Mountains. It was first excavated in 1898-1900 by the British archaeologists Bliss and Macalister on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund and again after 1989 by Israeli archaeologist Amos Kloner on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The majority of the artifacts of the British excavation are to be found today in the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.

This site is now protected as part of Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park and recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Nabratein synagogue

The Nabratein synagogue (Hebrew: נבוריה‎) is an ancient synagogue and archaeological site in the upper Galilee, in a pine forest northeast of Safed.

Outline of ancient history

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient history:

Ancient history – study of recorded human history from the beginning of writing at about 3000 BC until the Early Middle Ages. The times before writing belong either to protohistory or to prehistory. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 – 5,500 years, beginning with Sumerian cuneiform, the oldest form of writing discovered so far. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, currently most Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD or the coming of Islam in 632 AD as the end of ancient history.


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