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26. The Good Samaritan Inn

In Luke 10 Jesus is challenged with a question – What is needed to inherit eternal life? Part of his answer quotes Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But this it followed with a parable. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37).

Why did Jesus choose the route between Jerusalem and Jericho to portray a dangerous road? Two thousand years ago the choice was obvious. Both Jerusalem and Jericho were important sites in antiquity, but the road between the two passed through the rough and dry terrain of the JudeanDesert. Hot and shade less, this area was uninhabited and undeveloped. Only nomads could utilize this region, and to this day Bedouin encampments can be seen on the sides of the modern road.

Bedouin encampments remain a common sight even today on the side of the modern road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Photo © D Hughes

Bedouin encampments remain a common sight even today on the side of the modern road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Photo © D Hughes

From the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries CE) on, various sites in the Holy Land were venerated as related to the scriptures. One of them was a site along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, which was identified as “The Good Samaritan Inn”. A basilical church built there provided another pilgrimage destination as well as road services for pilgrims descending to the Jordan valley and Jericho.

A proposed isometric reconstruction of the Byzantine church complex at the site of "The Good Samaritan Inn"

A proposed isometric reconstruction of the Byzantine church complex at the site of "The Good Samaritan Inn". Photo © Archaeological Department of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (ADCAJS).

During the Crusader period a fort was built on the hilltop next to the church, and its remains are clearly visible to this day. Yet the site remained closed to the public for many years. The local Arabs called the site “Khan el Hatruri” – ‘The inn of the hungry’, echoing a past memory that the site once accommodated travelers.

But In recent years the site finally received proper archaeological attention, and in 2009 the site was opened to visitors for the first time. Following comprehensive excavations and preservations, the site was developed into a unique mosaic museum, exhibiting several ancient mosaic floors discovered in this region. The setting of the museum is quite appealing, combining the use of the old local stone structure, with a modern glass and metal hall.

The mosaic floor of a Byzantine period church discovered in Khirbet Latatin, five kilometres North West of Jerusalem

The mosaic floor of a Byzantine period church discovered in Khirbet Latatin, five kilometres North West of Jerusalem. The mosaic is now exhibited at the Good Samaritan Inn Mosaic Museum. Photo © Danny Herman

And next to it the ancient church is now refurbished, and allows pilgrim groups to even conduct services at the site. The site is sure to develop into a major attraction (especially if the policy of no entrance fees remains..).

I highly recommend a visit to the site on your next tour of the Holy Land.

A wooden roof construction provides shade and shelter for groups visiting the ancient Byzantine church at the site of the Good Samaritan Inn. The roof design imitates that of other churches built in this period. Photo © ADCAJS