Bar'am Synagogue 001

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  • Title:  Bar'am Synagogue 001
  • Description:  On the grounds of the Bar'am National Park is a synagogue from the Talmudic period.

    The original name of the village in which the synagogue was found is unknown, but it is indicative of the existence of an established Jewish community in the area it was found.

    The Kfar Bar'am synagogue is preserved up to the second story and has been restored. The architecture is similar to that of other synagogues in the Galilee built in the Talmudic period. In 1522, Rabbi Moses Basula wrote that the synagogue belonged to Simeon bar Yochai, who survived the Second Jewish War in 132-135 CE. Archaeologists, however, have concluded that the building was built at least a century later. According to another tradition, the synagogue was built in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and bore his name. Israeli archaeologist Lipa Sukenik (1889–1953), excavated a relief in one of the synagogues in 1928, and dated the Bar’am synagogue to the 3rd century CE.

    The synagogue is made of basalt stone, standard for most buildings in the area. The six-column portico is unusual. The front entrance of the synagogue has three doorways that face Jerusalem. In front of the entrance are some of the (originally eight) columns with Attic bases which supported a porch. There is an inscription under the right window on the facade, which reads: "Banahu Elazar bar Yodan", which means "Elazar bar Yodan built it". Elazar bar Yodan is a Jewish Aramaic name. The interior of the synagogue was divided by rows of columns into three aisles and an ambulatory.

    An unusual feature in an ancient synagogue is the presence of three-dimensional sculpture, a pair of stone lions. A similar pair of three-dimensional lions was found at Chorazin. A carved frieze features a winged victory and images of animals and, possibly, human figures.

    There was a second, smaller synagogue, but little of it was found. A lintel from this smaller synagogue is at the Louvre. The Hebrew inscription on the lintel reads, "Peace be upon the place, and on all the places of Israel."

    In 1901, publication of photos of the ancient synagogue led the Jewish Hospital of Philadelphia, (now the Albert Einstein Medical Center,) to erect a synagogue, the Henry S. Frank Memorial Synagogue, inspired by Bar'am and other ancient Israeli synagogues. The hospital's synagogue replicated the round arch of the door of the standing ruin and the lintel from the smaller synagogue that is now in the Louvre.
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  • Keywords:  Synagogue, Bar'am
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