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Emet m'Tsiyon

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Susiya -- Ancient Jewish Town Southeast of Hebron

in the Roman-Byzantine [Talmudic] Era

Jews continued to live in Judah, the former kingdom of Judah, after defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire [135 CE]. However, Jerusalem and its surrounding area, renamed the polis of Aelia Capitolina by Rome, became almost entirely empty of Jews --Judenrein-- after the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the war against Rome [according to Roman historian, Dio Cassius]. Eusebios, an early Christian historian who lived in Caesarea, reported an imperial decree forbidding Jews to live anywhere near Jerusalem, which is interpreted to mean anywhere in the Aelia Capitolina polis or colonia. Jews in the Aelia Capitolina zone who had survived the war, moved to the Galilee & Golan, to the Lowlands [Shefelah] around Lod, and to Hebron and the south side of Mount Hebron.

The territory of the First Temple times Kingdom of Judah was only part of the Roman Province of Judea, which --roughly speaking-- was equivalent to the Land of Israel. At the time of the defeat of Bar Kokhba, the Romans not only changed Jerusalem's name but officially renamed the whole province "Syria Palaestina." Hence, usage of "Palestine" as the official name of the country begins as an act of imperial repression against the native people of the Land, the Jews.
Remains of Marble Adornments around the Ark of the Torah - now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The Hebrew word on the left of the left fragment is אתחזק [et'hazeq], I will be strengthened.
Susiya was an impressive Jewish town on the south of Mount Hebron. The synagogue was impressive with its architecture, beautiful mosaics, the marble screen or railing around the ark of the Torah --which was surmounted by carved, inscribed marble adornments [as above] , and its several Hebrew and Hebrew-Aramaic inscriptions. The adornment around the top of the Ark --in good condition considering its age and the historical vicissitudes that it has been through-- can be seen at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Susiya was founded, it seems, in the First Century CE, while the Second Temple was still standing. Yet its major growth started in the 3rd century, with the more liberal policy of the Severan emperors towards the Jews. And this growth reached a peak in the 6th century. Susiya lasted into the period after the Arab Conquest, sometimes called the Early Muslim Period. Towards the end of the 8th century, decay overcame Susiya and other Jewish towns and villages on Mount Hebron. Susiya was then abandoned for unknown reasons.

Meanwhile, Rome had settled Syrians in the largely depopulated Aelia Capitolina polis [including Jerusalem], while some authorities describe the colonists as Greco-Syrians [Mary Sherwood] or Syrians and Arabs [Michael Avi-Yonah]. These colonists might be considered the nucleus of the so-called "palestinian people." Joshua Schwartz says that a few Jews continued to live in remote corners of the polis or colonia, and Schwartz says it is uncertain that there was a Roman decree forbidding Jews to live anywhere in the colonia. In any case, if there were such a decree, the Roman enforcement of it eventually grew lax and Jews seem to have returned to even the city of Jerusalem and set up a yeshiva, no less, which was called Qahala Qadisha d'bYrushalayim [קהלא קדישא דבירושלים]. They were followers of Rabbi Me'ir. Schwartz adds that some of the Jews in Jerusalem in that period were simple folk . The renewed tolerance for Jews in Jerusalem seems to have occurred in the 3rd century. However, after the Roman Empire became Christian in the 4th century, Jews were definitely banned from the city and polis of Aelia. By the way, Aelia refers to Emperor Hadrian's clan or gens name. Capitolina refers to the Capitoline hill in Rome and the Roman temple on it.

Of course, the capacity of the Arabs and their Western sympathizers and promoters to invent a never existent "palestinian people" who allegedly inhabited the heart of the Land of Israel instead of the Jews will not be curtailed despite the abundant evidence that is available, some of which we present here. Here are several more photos of the Susiya synagogue. Note the rich colors, the delicate beauty of the marble adornment of the Ark of the Torah, and the inscriptions in Hebrew and Hebrew-Aramaic in Hebrew letters that can be read today, albeit with some difficulty.

In this mosaic floor inscription, the Hebrew words שלום על ישראל אמן [Peace Upon Israel Amen] are clearly visible on the bottom line. The inscription is in memory of a kohen [priest] and sofer [scribe] whose family presumably donated funds to build the synagogue [plaques for donors, just like today]. The mosaic inscription below is in Aramaic rather than Hebrew and is also a memorial dedicatory inscription.

Source of the photos is : חורבת סוסיא עיר מתקופת התלמוד by זאב ייבין [Ze'ev Yeivin, The Ruins of Susiya, A City from the Talmudic Period (Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority 1993)].
Also see, Yehoshu`a Shvarts [= Joshua Schwartz], היישוב היהודי ביהודה מלאחר מרד בר-כוכבא ועד לכיבוש הערבי [The Jewish Population in Judah from after the Bar Kokhba Revolt until the Arab Conquest (Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1985-1986)].
`Oded Porath, article in Maqor Rishon under the Tiyul rubric, 3-30-2007.
- - - - - - -
Coming: more on James Baker and the Petro-Diplomatic Complex, more on propaganda, etc.


  • Thanks - I am in Israel right now, coincidentally. I'll try to go see it.

    By Blogger Yehudit, at 6:51 PM  

  • No Yehudit. You are not welcome in the area. It is not Israel and never will be. Stay out. This horrific blog should be shut down. It's total garbage and lies.

    By Anonymous Amnon, at 10:45 PM  

  • "amnon"'s comment is offensive but I will leave it on since it illustrates the fanaticism and hatred for historical fact of what is euphemistically called the "peace camp" or "human rights movement". Amnon's link led to the site of B'Tselem, a fake "human rights" outfit that is financed by the Ford Foundation and various European Union agencies and bodies in EU member states. Europe, the West, oppressed and persecuted Jews for nearly 2000 years. Now the EU and Ford Foundation continue oppressing Jews through the instrumentality of the Arabs under the pretext of the fake "peace process."

    Telling Yehudit not to visit Susiya, an ancient Jewish archeological site, is bigoted, unjust, and represents anti-Jewish racism. Denial of Jewish history, or of any true history, is unjust and a kind of fanaticism. Denying the Jewish right to live in Judea-Samaria is anti-Jewish racism. This includes Hebron from which the ancient Jewish community was expelled by the British after a massacre of 68 Jews by Arabs in 1929. Amnon's gang, the fake "human-rights, civil-rights" outfit, B'Tselem, denies this Jewish right and therefore is a fake and indeed Judeophobic outfit. B'Tselem is also an agency of Western Judeophobes. Jimmy carter was a supporter of and contributor to B'Tselem back in the 1980s. Jimmy gets big bucks from superrich Arabs, like the Bin Laden family.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 2:41 PM  

  • note "Amnon"'s unhinged reaction to my blog. It claims that it's all "lies." But he can't refute anything that I've written here. So he wants it to be shut down. Very tolerant and respectful of freedom of speech, press, and expression he is.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 2:48 PM  

  • What everyone seems to be missing here is the fact that NOT ALL Israelites are Jews. A Jew or rather "JUDAEN" Is a person descended from JUDAH ONE of JACOBS twelve sons. However, ALL Judaens are Israelites.

    By Blogger Fearnot, at 1:58 PM  

  • Fearnot, the ancient Israelites married --intermarried-- among the various tribes. The tribes were exogamous then, similarly to the Roman gens, I believe. That means that they could NOT marry within their own tribe but had to marry out of the tribe. So right there the tribes were mixing from the beginning. People in all the tribes were descended from Judah, at least on their mothers' side.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 10:54 PM  

  • My daughter and I went to archeological Susya in August 1985 on a tour arranged by the Eretz Yisrael Movement. No one -- NO ONE -- was living there. It was hot, very hot, and very dry. We saw ancient Jewish structures (with a menorah carved above the entrance) that had been built below the surface of the land. Our guide explained that the underground houses were built after the Hurban, as evidenced by a horizontal line carved above the menorah. We descended down several steps and marveled at the lower temperature in these underground houses.

    We also visited an ancient synagogue, above ground. This shul was oriented to face North towards Yerushalayim and a cool breeze(!) came through. We saw the ancient mosaic floor with the words, "Shalom Al Yisrael." A corrugated metal roof had been added by residents of the nearby Jewish community of Susya. We were taken by bus to this modern Jewish Susya. It was a new community, only two or three years old, consisting of mobile homes arranged in a circle - like covered wagons in the American West. We were given water to drink. Water was piped to Susya from Jerusalem. We were told that the Arabs frequently cut through the water pipe...but at no time did we see any evidence of Arab settlement in the vicinity.

    By Blogger Faige, at 11:31 PM  

  • Faige your experience is very helpful - thanks for share this truth.

    By Blogger Deborah, at 4:22 PM  

  • The mosaic with Yeshua name on it is in Hebrew not Aramaic for the simple it has YOD, SHIN, VAV, AYIN, there is no SHIN in Aramaic alphabet

    By Blogger Sue Arrott, at 4:14 AM  

  • The mosaic above with Yeshua name on it is in Hebrew not Aramaic for the simple fact it has YOD, SHIN, VAV, AYIN, there is no SHIN in Aramaic alphabet.

    By Blogger Sue Arrott, at 4:15 AM  

  • Easy there, Sue. The same alphabet can be used to write both Hebrew and Aramaic. There is not an Aramaic alphabet separate from the Hebrew alphabet. There are a good number of Aramaic words with the SH sound. Like Qaddish, the name of a famous prayer. When those words turn up, they are written with a shin.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 1:48 PM  

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