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Ancient Church Discovered – and covered..

Khirbet Midras (Arabic “The ruins of Midras”), is a 40 acres site, 30 km SW of Jerusalem, in the region known as “The low [hills]” ( Hebrew “Shephela“).

Kh. Midras was documented for the first time in the 19th century CE by the French scholar V. Guerin, but only in 2010 was it excavated for the first time.

Past surveys of the site indicated kh. Midras was inhabited by Jews in the Roman period, and when they rebelled against the Roman they created hideout caves below the surface. Today these hideout caves are a popular tourist attraction, especially among youth groups.

One lintel that was always exposed on the surface of the site suggested that it was part of a large public building, possibly a Jewish synagogue.

A view of the newly discovered church in Khirbet Midras. On the right is a photo of the site before the excavations. CLICK ON THE PHOTO FOR A LARGER VIEW

Following several attempts to conduct illegal excavations at the vicinity of the lintel, in late 2010 the Israel Antiquities Authority decided to expose the whole building in order to protect its remains from possible antiquities theft.

The excavations exposed the whole building, and to everyone’s surprise it turned out to be a big – Church!.

It turns out the lintel was in situ, at the entrance to an apsidal church, whose mosaic floors were remarkably preserved.

The rumor of this extraordinary discovery attracted many to visit the site, and received a good share of media cover, especially because plans were to cover the mosaics till further budget is recruited to develop the site for preservation and visits (see a JPOST video I made on kh. Midras at the time here).

Several days before covering the church head of the Prime minister’s office visited the site and promised the budget needed for preserving the site.

But a few days later, apparently on the night of March 22nd, vandals using metal tools deliberately damaged the beautiful mosaic floors (see photos here).

In reaction the Israel Antiquities Authority immediately covered the rest of the remains, to protect them.

Since then it seem the story was forgotten and the church is and beautiful mosaic floors are doomed to be neglected.

Shouldn’t such a find be properly preserved and presented to the public?

And if it is impossible to protect it at the site, shouldn’t it be moved to a protected site such as nearby Maresha?

The budget for its preservation was promised.

And promises should be kept.

.

Here are some photos taken of the church and its beautiful mosaic floors:

A general view of the southern aisle of the church exposed in Khirbet Midras. The aisle was tiled with a well preserved ornate mosaic floor. © Peter Stephansky. CLICK ON THE PHOTO FOR A LARGER VIEW
Details of figurative art presented in some of the mosaic floors of the ancient church in Khirbet Midras. © Peter Stephansky
Details of figurative art presented in some of the mosaic floors of the ancient church in Khirbet Midras. © Peter Stephansky
Details of figurative art presented in some of the mosaic floors of the ancient church in Khirbet Midras. © Peter Stephansky

One of the mosaics discovered in khirbet Midras (c) Meir Kimhi

Detail of a mosaic form Khirbet Midras. (C) Meir kimhi

The access to the crypt in the church of Khirbet Midras. (C) Meir kimhi

A marble corinthian capital IN SITU in Khirbet Midras. (C) Meir Kimhi

Detail of a mosaic from Khirbet Midras. (C) Meir kimhi