Second Temple-Era Synagogue Unearthed in Northern Israel

August 16, 2016

< 1 min read

The remains of an unusual structure that served as a synagogue during the Second Temple era have been unearthed at an archaeological excavation underway at Tel Rechesh in the heart of the Nahal Tavor Nature Reserve in the lower Galilee.

The Tel Rechesh excavation site. (Credit: The Japanese archaeological delegation)
The Tel Rechesh excavation site. (Credit: The Japanese archaeological delegation)

The synagogue is one of only eight synagogues discovered in Israel that date back to the Second Temple era, said Dr. Motti Aviam, a senior researcher at the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee.

“This is the first synagogue discovered in the rural part of the Galilee and it confirms historical information we have about the New Testament, which says that Jesus preached at synagogues in Galilean villages,” Aviam said.

In the first century C.E., a large farm was built on the tel (a hill comprising layers of archaeological remains). The farm buildings include one structure containing a large room that measures 8 meters (26 feet) by 9 meters (29.5 feet). The walls of the room are lined with benches constructed from skillfully hewn limestone. Along the northern wall, archaeologists also discovered two large basalt stones that formed part of a ritual altar that had been used some 1,500 years earlier in a temple in a Canaanite city that stood on the same spot.

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