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Two Biblical sites located (2005)

The Galilee is a hilly area in northern Israel that has been the location of a number of events documented in both the Old and New Testament. Recent archaeological research by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) provided new and interesting information about the location and history of some of them.

Evidence for Biblical Sulam found in Shunem.

In the middle of the Jezre’el Valley lies an Arab village called Sulam. Early research has already suggested that this is the site of Biblical Shunem, a site mentioned several times in the Old Testament: When the Philistines prepared to attack Saul’s army, they assembled at Shunem (1 Samuel 28:4); The beautiful young woman,Abishag, whom David’s servants brought to care for him in his last years, came from Shunem (1 Kings 1:1-4); and at Shunem Elisha restored a young boy to life, by putting “his mouth on his (the child’s) mouth” (II Kings 4:34).  This may have been the earliest historical record of mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Additional information about Shunem is provided by Egyptian sources. The town is mentioned in the list of the cities that were occupied by Thutmosis III, as well as being named in the Tell el-Amarna letters (15th-14th Centuries BCE). It also appears in the list of cities taken by Sheshonk I in 925 BCE.

Recent archaeological excavation by the IAA in the middle of the Arab village provided additional information for the history of the site. It was already occupied in the Middle Bronze period and people have lived there almost continuously right down to modern times. Of all the finds at Shunem, the most interesting were the artifacts from the Israelite period, the time of Elisha and the Shunamite woman. These are the first finds from this period found in Shunem/Sulam. Being a place of a Biblical miracle, perhaps a religious denomination might even build a place of prayer at the archaeological site!

Iron age pottery discovered at Sulam \ Biblical Shunem

Iron age pottery discovered at Sulam \ Biblical Shunem

Evidence for Cana found in western Kafr Cana.

Another famous miracle site in Galilee is Cana, the village where Jesus turned water into wine during a wedding (John 2:1-11). The site is identified as Kafr-Cana, an Arab village just north of Nazareth, where archaeological excavations revealed occupation layers from the Roman and Byzantine periods, and even a synagogue. Today the remains of the synagogue are under a Roman Catholic Church that commemorates the wedding and the miracle performed by Jesus. The symmetrical facade is said to match the desired symmetry in marriage.

The façade of the 1879 catholic church at Cana

The façade of the 1879 catholic church at Cana. Its symmetric design is meant to echo the symmetry of marriage. By Tradition during a wedding at this place Jesus preformed his first miracle of turning water into wine

So far all scholars identifying Cana at Kafr Cana located it in the vicinity of the church, yet recent excavations at the western hill of Kafr Cana revealed a previouslyunknown village from the Roman period.

These excavations, conducted by Yardena Alexander of the IAA, exposed evidence of an agrarian community. Their ethnic identity was proven as Jewish with the discovery water purifying facilities (Mikvaot). Such facilities were used only by Jews.

Alexandra Yardeni and David Amit examining the newly found purifying faciliy (mikveh) at Cana

The most intriguing finds were several fragments of stone vessels. Such stone vessels were also used only by Jews, for purity reasons.

These type of stone vessels are also mentioned in the story of the wedding in Cana. The text states that the water which Jesus turned into wine was kept in “..six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons” (John 2:6). Could these fragments be of the stone jars mentioned in the scriptures??. Frankly it is unlikely, because the fragments were of small cups, not the type that could hold 20-30 gallons. Nevertheless these finds prove that the hill west of Kafr-Cana was inhabited as well in the first century CE, and perhaps first century Cana was located here.

Fragment of a stone vessel found in the new excavations in the hill west of Kafr-Cana

Fragment of a stone vessel found in the new excavations in the hill west of Kafr-Cana

Stone vessels from Jewish sites

Danny and his wife Ravit are pleased to announce the birth of their third child, Shaked, brother to Tome and Mai. In the picture below, the two older children are dressed, as is the Jewish custom, for the “Purim” festival, held in March this year. The holiday commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people as recorded in the book of Esther. The word “purim” (lots) comes from the casting of lots by Haman who plotted to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire during the reign ofAhasuerus (also known as Xerxes, 486-465 BC). Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes, noisemaking, costumes and treats.

Tome, Mai, and Shaked dressed for Purim 2005

Tome, Mai, and Shaked dressed for Purim 2005