Beit Alpha Synagogue

No one was more surprised than the members of Kibbutz Heftzibah when they went out to dig an irrigation channel in 1928 and uncovered a stunning, Byzantine-era (6th-century) mosaic floor. Map.

Beit Alpha Synagogue
Beit Alpha Synagogue

Further excavation revealed the rest of the Beit Alpha Synagogue, whose extraordinarily mosaics are among the most evocative of ages past ever found in Israel. The three mosaic panels depict traditional Jewish symbols such as a Torah ark, two menorahs (seven-branched candelabras) and a shofar (ram’s horn) alongside a spectacular, 12-panel zodiac circle, a pagan element if there ever was one.

Beit Alpha Synagogue
Beit Alpha Synagogue

At the bottom, above inscriptions in Aramaic and Hebrew, Jacob (holding a knife) is shown about to sacrifice his son Isaac, alongside the ram that God (represented by a hand from heaven) sent to be sacrificed in the boy’s stead; each character is labelled in Hebrew. A 14-minute film (in six languages), projected above and onto the mosaic, provides an excellent introduction. Wheelchair accessible.

Beit Alpha Synagogue
Beit Alpha Synagogue

Up the hill from the synagogue, inside Kibbutz Heftzibah, is something unexpected: a lovely little Shinto-style Japanese garden (054 663 4348; tour adult/child 20/10NIS) with a serene koi pond, built by members of the Makoya, a Japanese Christian movement whose members have been studying Hebrew at the kibbutz since 1962. Call for a tour.

Kibbutz Heftzibah
Kibbutz Heftzibah

Please leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.