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.
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Coming: more on James Baker and the Petro-Diplomatic Complex, more on propaganda, etc.