Perched on a hill overlooking the Hulah valley, the ruins of khirbet Omrit were first noticed in 1989, after a bush fire at the site. The excavations in the following years uncovered remarkable remains of Roman temple complex. The Archaeologists suggest the temple was first built by the Iturean King Zenodorus. Later, it was enlarged by King Herod, and again, perhaps by king Agrippa II. In the Byzantine period a Christian chapel was built over the remains of the temple, which was perhaps destroyed in the 363 CE earthquake. The chapel went out of use in the Middle Ages, but next to the site is a tomb sacred to the Druze (Nebi Yudah). It is possible that the sacred tomb preserved the memory of the sanctity of the site.
Was Peter named in Khirbet Omrit?
In the first century CE Herod Philip established a new capital at Caesarea-Philippi, 4 miles north of Khirbet Omrit. The New Testament records Jesus and his disciple traveling in the area:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16).
In return, Jesus declared that Peter will be the “foundation” of his community and gave him the nickname “Petrus” (rock, in Greek).
Many believe that the event took place in the city itself, but the text states it happened “in the regions of Caesarea Philippi” (Mat. 16:13) or “in the villages around Caesarea-Philippi” (Mark 8:27). Being so, it is possible also possible that the event actually took place in Khirbet Omrit. This might also explain why a Christian chapel was built at the site in the Byzantine period.