Korazim Ancient Synagogue


Korazim was founded as a Jewish city according to several testimonies and mainly according to the purification baths and the synagogue that were discovered here. The city was founded in the first century, in the northern, higher part of the hill on which it is located. Later, Korazim developed towards the south and west, and at the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth century it reached its peak, and extended over most of the hill, on an area of ​​about 70 dunams, equivalent to 17.5 acres. It extended up to the northern bank of the Korazim brook. Probably during this period, the synagogue and its central quarter were built. Today we will focus on the town’s impressive synagogue from the 4th century.

The settlement was built of small houses while in the center there are several large buildings that surround the synagogue.

If we assume that the synagogue was built on an empty lot, then in the 2nd century, with the development of Korazim, the central area was built. In general, before the synagogue was built, the rural type construction was relatively homogeneous, despite the diversity and uniqueness of each of the settlement’s areas.

The addition of the synagogue created a center to the town, that includes the synagogue, the plaza in front of it, and other important buildings, such as residences of the town’s dignitaries. This center is characterized by relatively straight streets.

The synagogue is of a type built in many others locations in Galilee and later I will explain the meaning. The different here, that it is built of basalt stones, the stone that dominates the place.

Basalt stone is very hard and therefore the work of the craftsmen should be appreciated for the excellent work done here, much respect.

So, the synagogue is located in the center of the settlement and access to it is easy from any direction. The surface of the ground where the synagogue was built descends on a steep slope and therefore the western part was filled with large stones for construction and that created a massive horizontal infrastructure for the building. In its northwestern corner, the wall of the synagogue rests on a carved natural rock as.

The front of the building is facing south, towards Jerusalem. It was the most decorated and impressive part of the building. According to the original plan, there was an open area in front of the synagogue in the south. From there, nine steps led to the three entrances of the synagogue.

As in the other Galilee synagogues, here too the central opening was wider and higher than the two openings on its sides. It seems that there were semi-circular windows on top of the jambs.

The openings led to the central prayer hall inside, where there are twelve columns. The columns divide the space into a central hall surrounded on three sides by narrow and long halls.

Apart from the southern wall, along the other three walls were two rows of benches built one above the other that served as seats for those gathered for prayer, indicating a large number of worshipers. You can clearly see the original rows of benches made of black basalt stone, and the restoration parts which are gray in color. Originally, the entire area of ​​the hall was probably paved with flat basalt slabs nicely adapted to the stylobate and located at the same level. Stylobate by the way – it is the upper part of the surface on which the columns stand.

Apparently the twelve columns, supported the second floor of the building. Above the capitals of the columns, was placed an architrave with a frieze and a decorated cornice. Above them was placed a second series of half-columns and capitals that formed the decoration of a raised space in the center of the building.

With the partial destruction of the city, probably in the middle of the fourth century, the synagogue was also partially damaged, and it was not possible to restore it based on the synagogue original plan. That is why changes were made to the synagogue in a later period, probably at the end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth century.

As part of these repairs, the internal arrangement of the columns was changed and some of the front stairs were out of use and in their place two entrance openings were established: one was a narrow opening in the west of the façade and the other was a wider opening that led through stairs from the east to the surface of the stairs. The western wall was rebuilt, the benches were repaired and the synagogue was partially paved with a plaster floor.

Impressive items that worth seeing: Let’s start with a magnificent shell decoration that is not clear where it was located, perhaps above the Holy Ark. Also, a copy of an unusual find – “Moses Seat” – it is a stone chair carved from basalt, square and its back is decorated with a flower pattern. On the chair is engraved a dedicatory inscription in Aramaic which, translated into English, reads as follows: “Remember Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Ishmael who paid for the pillars and stairs, may he be with the righteous.” This chair was intended for the seat of dignitaries, sages, and is mentioned in the New Testament and the Talmud literature. The original chair is kept today in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. As in the other ancient synagogues in the Galilee, it seems that here too there was no permanent place for the holy ark, it was probably kept in the room on the west side and brought into the prayer hall only when needed.

Another interesting item is a carved stone with the image of Medusa from Greek mythology. Her name means “protector” or “guard” in Greek. The presence of the image of Medusa indicates the openness of the local residents who dared to incorporate elements of this type in their synagogue. In general, high-quality reliefs are visible along the walls. Most of them depict human figures, animals, mythological figures, plants and engineering shape decorations.

The synagogue was intended not only for prayers but also for gathering, and also served as a court. Rooms adjacent to it were probably used as a hostel for passers-by, charitable institutions and classrooms.

Two groups of coins were found. One group with over 400 coins, mostly Constantinian coins from the beginning of the fourth century, was found under a trench covered with stone beams, near the opening leading to the street. It seems that this treasure was collected at the beginning of the synagogue’s existence and before it was partially destroyed, probably until the beginning of the fourth century.

The second group containing 1500 coins, was found in a section made inside the synagogue near the south wall in front of its three doors. These coins were scattered throughout the excavation area in places where the pavement was missing. Most of the coins are from the end of the fourth century. The coins from the latest period are two gold coins from the time of Emperor Heraclius from the beginning of the seventh century.

And to conclude, as usual I have a question for you, the southern border of Korazim is a brook. what is the name of the brook. The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Ariel: A journal for the knowledge of the Land of Israel - the Sea of ​​Galilee and its surroundings in the Christian tradition, Editors: Gabriel Barkay and Eli Shiller, Publisher: Ariel
  2. Book: Forgotten Architecture, Author: Michal Moshe, Publisher: Ariel, University in Samaria
  3. Book: The new Israel Guide, book 4 – The Lower Galilee and its shores and the Kinarot Valley, Publisher: Keter
  4. The new encyclopedia for archeological excavations in Israel

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