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Byzantine church and Mosaics Uncovered

By Jerusalem Expert: Shmuel, Israel, February 2011

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About 45km south of Jerusalem in the Ella valley, where David fought Goliath, lie the ruins of an ancient agricultural settlement from Iron age II, Hirbet Midras. The site contained a large Jewish settlement that dates from the Second Temple period (3rd century BCE) until its destruction by the Romans during the Bar Kokhba uprising (132-135CE). Today the site is part of a popular 5000 dunam JNF park and nature reserve that you can visit.

In the pursuit of thieves who plunder sites for valuable artifacts to sell on the antiquities market investigators discovered a large stone lintel from a public building. When excavations uncovered large dressed stones with Byzantine crosses, an apse, incredible mosaic floors and a crypt, the building was identified as a church. There is evidence that the church was destroyed by an earthquake some 1,300 years ago. The mosaics, including geometric designs, flora and fauna are very well preserved.

Among the artifacts discovered were coins from the time of the Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and the Bar Kokhba uprising, stone vessels, lamps and various pottery vessels that are characteristic of the Jewish population from the settlement at that time.

Beneath the entire building is a subterranean complex in which there are rooms, water installations, traps and store rooms for hiding.

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