ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE IN THE GOLAN - UM EL KANATIR
The antiquities of the Holy Land continue to attract numerous travel lovers today. One of the special places where the modern virtual world of computers and the world of archaeological excavations are connected is located in the southwest of the Golan Heights in a place bearing the Arabic name "Um el-Kanatir". Here you can see with your own eyes and, to some extent, become part of the unique restoration of an ancient synagogue of 1500 years ago.
RESEARCH OF UM EL-KANATIR
Um el-Kanatir first became famous in 1884. Laurence Olyphant, an English supporter of Zionism, discovered the site during his travels in the Golan. Oliphant explored the area at the time as part of promoting his idea of a Jewish state in the Golan Heights. Once he stopped at a small source of Um el-Kanatir (translated from Arabic - the mother of arches). This name was given to the source because of the ancient arches located near it. (The modern Israeli name for the site is the Arch of Rehavam. After the assassinated Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi-Gandhi. Gandhi visited the site a week before his death and confirmed the budget for a project to excavate a synagogue in Um el-Qanatir).
The Bedouin accompanying Oliphant showed him ancient ruins at a distance of a couple of hundred meters from the source, nicknamed by the local Arabs "Jewish ruins". It was not difficult to determine that we are talking about the ruins of an ancient synagogue. Later, in 1905 and 1928, small archaeological excavations took place here, which showed the size of the synagogue - 13.80 by 19.80 meters. However, serious excavations began here only 8 years ago.
In Um el-Kanatir, an ancient Jewish settlement was found, from the time of the Mishna and Talmud, with a size of 30 dunams. The 2-story synagogue had a tiled roof and was exquisitely decorated. Plastered basins for bleaching fabrics were found near the spring. From here came one of the aqueducts, which led the water to Susita, a Roman-Byzantine city in the Golan Heights.
RESTORATION OF THE SYNAGOGUE IN UM EL-QANATIR
The synagogue and the entire Jewish settlement were destroyed during the earthquake in 749. (At the same time, most of the settlements and cities throughout northern Israel were destroyed - including the cities of Beit Shean and Susita). This earthquake ended the Jewish presence in the Golan Heights, which had not been inhabited for several centuries. This led to the loss of almost all ancient Hebrew names and names from the times of the Second Temple and the period of the Mishna and Talmud.
Due to the remote location of Um el-Qanatir from other settlements built here later, most of the stones were not plundered and remained at the site of destruction. A small Arab village, founded near the source in the 20s of the 20th century, did not have time to harm the ancient structure. This fact made it possible to apply during the excavations in Um el-Qanatir a unique method for the restoration of this ancient synagogue of 1500 years ago.
Work began in 2003 under the leadership of Joshua (Yeshu) Drei of the Center for the Restoration of Ancient Technologies and archaeologists Ilana Gonen and Chaim ben David. A special crane was built, running on rails, to facilitate the work and to enable the use of an advanced restoration method. Each stone received an electronic number, was photographed "from the air" from all sides, and with the help of a special computer program was virtually "returned" to its place in the synagogue before the earthquake. More than 1,500 large stones were “processed” with a crane in just two months. Numerous unique finds were found, one of them is the perfectly preserved Aron ha-Kodesh (the place where the Torah scrolls are kept), reaching five and a half meters in height.
JEWISH SYNAGOGUES OF THE MISHNA AND TALMUD TIMES
Unlike the numerous churches and monasteries that were built throughout Israel in those years with funds from the Byzantine Empire, Jewish synagogues were built with funds from local Jewish communities. At that time, it was a very large project that lasted for many decades. We can say that people did not build for themselves, but future generations. To some extent, the construction of Jewish synagogues to replace the lost Jerusalem Temple was part of a cultural inter-religious struggle for survival in an overwhelming Christian environment.