January 29th, 2004  

Vol.  III - No. 12

In This Issue

  • Nablus

  • Baba Rabba's Synagogues

  • Qumran and the Samaritans

  • Joseph Patrich

  • Beit She'an

  • Jabneel

  • Encyclopaedia Judaica

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Sunset Times for Central Israel calculated by Abraham Cohen from Holon


begins Friday Jan. 30th, 5:12pm to Saturday 31st, 5:13 p.m.

6th 5:18 pm- 7th, 5:19 pm

Samaritan Calendar

of Festivals

Next fest: Passover

May 3rd, 2004


Studies and Related Conferences:


In Planning Stage

SES:In Haifa, July 5-8, 2004 organised by Menahem Mor, and a session at the EABS in Grooningen, July 25-28, 2004 organized by Ingrid Hjelm

(Still waiting to hear for a call for Papers)

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(Historic Map)

NB: Dates, where given, are according to both Muslim and Christian calendars with the Muslim year preceding the Christian one thus: 1176/1672-73. Since the two calendars rarely coincide the Christian equivalent is not usually exact.

# 31 is the location of the old Samaritan Synagogue.

The synagogue is no longer in use my the Samaritan-Israelites. A new synagogue was built on Mount Gerizim and also two exist in Holon.




Baba Rabba's Synagogues, Where Are The Remains Today?

By Shomron

The great Samaritan reformer Baba Rabba left a great impression on Samaritan-Israelites and their history. He was named ‘Baba ha-Gadol’ (the Great Baba meaning the great Gate). We are told he was born in Samaria in the 4th century C. E. and was the eldest son of the Levite (a descendant of Aaron) High Priest Nethanel (300-332 C.E.). Information concerning Rabbah Baba comes to us from Samaritan sources, the Tolidah, the Book of Joshua, the Kitab al-Ta’rikh of Abul Fath and the New Chronicle. Among his many accomplishments, he built and established eight synagogues in various locals in the land of Israel.  But where are the remains of these structures?

Samaritan Chronicles inform us that the synagogues were constructed in the same manner as the Basrah synagogue (A Samaritan Chronicle, Jeffrey M. Cohen, Brill, Leiden, 1981, p.71.) Apparently, this synagogue is said to have been built in the Era of favor (Rahuta), these were the early years after the Israelites entered into the land of Canaan. To my knowledge the location of this synagogue with its earth floor is unknown today. Interesting is the fact that discovered Samaritan synagogues are known to have mosaic floors (See the article in Biblical Archaeology Review, may/June 1998, How to Tell a Samaritan Synagogue from a Jewish Synagogue by Reinhard Pummer, and the article by David Landau, Ancient Synagogues in the Holy Land-What Synagogues).

John Bowman (Samaritan Documents Relating to their History and Life, Pickwick Press, Pitt, Penn. 1977) and Jeffrey Cohen (A Samaritan Chronicle, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1981) have a list of the locations of the eight synagogues from Samaritan Chronicles. Cohen's book appears to be just a little more details from his manuscript than Bowman's on the synagogue locations. But Cohen gives no extra information on the buildings or cities. Maybe he had planned a separate article or book on the locations. No complete writing as of yet links any discovered remains with Rabba's synagogues.  Here are the two lists from each book.



1. ‘Awarta- Baba Rabba lived there.

 1. Kwfr ‘Amartah- east of Shechem

2. Salem

2. Beth-Nimrah

3. Namara

3. Qryth Hagah- southern direction, opposite the town ‘Skor. Pool still exists, house in ruins.

4. Kirya Hajja

4. Qryth Tirah

5. Karawa

5. Saba’rin of Shephelah

6. Tira Luza

6. Salem eastward of Shechem, opposite of the mount in a north-east direction.

7. Dabarin

7. Beth Dagen, east of the mount in a northern direction

8. Bait Gan

8. Synagogue of the Stone between Elon More and mount Gerizim 360 chambers built south of the sepulcher of Joseph’s tomb.

Bowman and Cohen also give some names of the sages that were placed in charge of the synagogues. Each of the two books only give us seven sages which may mean the Baba Rabba or more likely the reigning High Priest took charge of the eighth synagogues. The information may also help in identifying the synagogues' locations.



1. Arub’I, a descendant of Ithamar and he was the Haftawi and his limit was from Bait Kabiha in the great plain

1. Srwb’y means fruit of my desire, he was Habtah, descendant of Ithamar, his territory from the shade of the great plain.

2. Jose an Israelite from Kefer Sabla

2. Ywzby Ysr’ly lived in Kwfr Yslh

3. Al-Yanah from Sarafin

3. ‘lyn’h Srpyn

4. Kahin Levi from Zaita

4. Levite from Zyth

5. Israelite from Kefer Maruth

5. Israelite from Kfwr Mrwt

6. Amram Darir a priest from Kefar Safasah, father of Markah

6. Amram, Levite from Kwfr Sp’sh, father of Marqah

7. Israelite, no name mentioned

7. An Israelite


One interesting piece in the history of the Nablus synagogue found on page 83 of The Continuatio of the Samaritan Chronicle of Abu L-Fath Al-Samiri Al-danafi by Milka Levy-Rubin, explains how the synagogue that had been burnt down was rebuilt without wood, except for the middle building. The fact that it is mentioned that it was built without wood may follow the same pattern as a Rabba synagogue. Milka assumes that this synagogue was burnt down during one of the rebel raids (page 32). It would be interesting to locate all eight synagogues and see if they all have the same dimensions. Some links to possibilities of Samaritan synagogues have been added below in this issue. It would be interesting to see if any of our readers can possibly link an excavation to any of the eight synagogues. The Samaritan-Israelites have continued to use the synagogue as their house of Prayer to this day.

Qumran and the Samaritans

By Shomron

In the past few months I have had numerous inquires concerning the book by Thord and Maria Thordson, Qumran and the Samaritans. The interest appears to be derived from their personal studies and interests in early Christian sects in the land of Israel. The interest of the Essenes have intrigued the world since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. A couple of the scrolls bear a close connection with Samaritan-Israelites writings. This in turn adds a fascination of the sect and its revelations of similarities of the Samaritans. These similarities are very plainly revealed in Thordsons' book.  Not only does this book compare doctrines between the Essenses and Samaritans but also the Jews and Kariates. It is a one of a kind book but sorry, it may be hard to find. I would suggest a library loan! Note: I have often wondered if the sect of the Essenes were in fact an off sect of the Dositheans!


Joseph Patrich, "Church, State and the Transformation of Palestine - the Byzantine Period (324 - 640 CE)", in Thomas E. Levy (ed) Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, Leicester University press, London 1995.

Samaritan synagogues

Excavated sites number about seven. Others are known from the literary sources). Samaritan synagogues are aligned with their facade or their rear wall toward Mount Gerizim. The recently excavated fourth-fifth century synagogues of el-Khirbe and Khirbet Samra, show a unique plan, never encountered before. They are rectangular halls, entered through a single door and roofed by a vault. The longitudinal walls are therefore ca. twice as thick as the short ones. Stone benches are built along the walls. It appears that the Samaritan synagogues underwent later a development similar to the Jewish synagogues in terms of the final prevalence of the Christian basilical type, and the introduction of an apse for the placement of the Ark. The sixth century synagogue of Beth Shean is basilical in plan, with two colonnades and an apse which is facing away from Mount Gerizim. The plan of the Zur Nathan (and Ramat Aviv?) synagogues was similar, except that a small apse in the rear wall faced eastward - towards Mount Gerizim.



Beit She'an - A Biblical City and Scythopolis - A Roman-Byzantine City

This synagogue was also located at tel Itztaba, outside the northern part of the Byzantine city wall of Scythopolis. The building was excavated in 1960. Its plan was basilical, with an apse oriented northwest, not towards Jerusalem. The mosaic floor had floral and geometrical motifs, but no human or animal images. The square carpet in front of the apse depicts an aedicule (shrine) supported by columns and covered with a parochet (curtain). On both sides of the aedicule are identical presentations of cultic symbols: menorah (candelabrum), shofar (ram's horn) and incense shovel. One of the inscriptions in the mosaic floor is in Greek, but written in Samaritan script, which led to the surmise that the building was a Samaritan synagogue. http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0k480


Samaritans in Ramla and surrounding area




Jabneel, which is also Jamnia - (Yabneh)

With the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jabneh ceased to be the center of Jewish life in Erez Israel and the Diaspora. After the war, unsuccessful attempts were made to transfer the Sanhedrin from Galilee back to Jabneh (RH 31a-b). A strong Jewish element remained in the city, but the Samaritans constituted the majority (Tosef., Dem. 1:13). A Samaritan inscription belonging to a synagogue was discovered there. http://servus.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/mad/discussion/094discuss.html


In the Encyclopaedia Judaica, (1972, v. 4, p. 719) under Bet(H)-Dagon '...Beth-Dagon located by Eusebius (Onom. 50:16) between Diospolis (Lydda) and Jamnia (Jabneh)," but called by him Kefar Dagon. The original name appears on the Madaba Map in the form (Bet)odegana. It was populated by Samaritans, who built a synagogue there in the fourth century; their presence is still attested to in the tenth century. The crusaders erected a castle there, known as Casal Moyen or Castellum de Maen, i.e., "midway" between Jaffa and Ramleh,..'

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