With Jerusalem Off-limits, Judaism Thrived On The Golan
During the Byzantine era, a quarter of Israel’s synagogues were located in three dozen Golan Heights communities. The Archeological Museum in Katzrin does them proud.
Less than a hundred years after the Romans quelled the Jewish revolt and destroyed the Temple, the Jews rebelled yet again. Led by Shimon Bar Kochba, a man many believed to be the Messiah, they fought for Jewish independence. The Romans quashed this revolt as well
Jewish settlements in the south were destroyed and Jerusalem became off limits to the Jews. Many of those who survived moved to the Galilee, and during the 4th century, large numbers moved from the Galilee to the Golan. So it’s not surprising that during the Byzantine era, fully 25 per cent of Israel’s synagogues were located in nearly three dozen Golan Heights communities.
No wonder, then, that the Golan Archeological Museum in Katzrin – whose displays consist exclusively of finds from the region – features a rich and exciting collection of religious artifacts. Among them: a famous lintel from a rabbinical school in the village of Devora (Dabura), magical amulets from the town of Kanaf, sculpted Menorah decorations from ancient Yehudiya and Pik, a sarcophagus lid naming 26-year-old “Shimon son of Abun” found at Ein Nashut, and the unique capital that once topped a column at that village’s 5th-century synagogue.
You get a taste of antiquity the moment you enter the museum, where an impressive rock is on display. It boats a triad of gods: Venus, god of the moon; Apollo, god of the Sun, and a bearded Jupiter, father of all the gods. The carvings demonstrate a high level of artistry, for they were created with hammer and chisel on hard basalt.