1,800-Year-Old Hebrew Inscriptions were Exposed on a Column Capital in Peqiʽin Village, in the Western Galilee

February 22, 2017

The column capital was revealed during restoration and conservation work taking place to upgrade the ancient synagogue and nearby Beit Zinati Visitors' Center.

Based on a preliminary analysis it seems that these are dedicatory inscriptions honoring donors who contributed to the synagogue

The work is being conducted by the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel as part of a heritage project carried out the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage.

The stone was found upside down in the building’s courtyard, and upon discovery of the inscriptions archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority arrived at the site to examine the special find. 

The 1,800 year old stone
Credit: Ritvo, courtesy of Beit Zinati

According to Yoav Lerer, the IAA inspector in the Western Galilee, “The Talmudic and Midrashic sources tell of the Galilean sages who lived in Peqiʽin, including Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and who hid from the Romans in a cave. However, there are those who disagree with the identification of the location of Peqiʽin. I believe that these inscriptions will add an important tier to our knowledge about the Jewish settlement in the village of Peqiʽin during the Roman and Byzantine periods”. 

The upgraded Visitors' Center at Peqiʽin’s ancient synagogue and nearby Beit Zinati will tell the two-thousand-year long history of the Jews in the village, and the unique story of the Zinati family – the village’s oldest Jewish family. Until today Margalit Zinati, the last member of the Jewish Zinati family resides in the house next door to the synagogue in order to "keep the flame alive". 

                     Margalit Zinati of Peqi'in village and the ancient stone  Creit: Ritvo, courtesy of Beit Zinati

Ze’ev Elkin, the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, said "Peqiʽin is one of the most significant sites in the Galilee, and is a place where there has always been a Jewish presence. It is a great honor for me that during my tenure in office such an important discovery has been made that tells this 2,000 year old story of the Land of Israel”.

The entrance to the ancient synagogue at Peqi'in
Credit: Ritvo, courtesy of Beit Zinati

Uriel Rosenboym, director of Beit Zinati says with great excitement “This is a historical discovery of unparalleled importance which confirms what the late President Yitzhak Ben Zvi maintained in the early twentieth century about the Jewish settlement at Peqiʽin. No one can argue with the written artifact. There was an ancient synagogue here and the synagogue was built in its current form in recent centuries. We thank the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, which aims to preserve the heritage of Peqiʽin’s Jews. We are pleased to open the new museum with a historic message about this ancient community. Although the stone itself was taken to be studied by the Israel Antiquities Authority, this unique story of the keepers of the flame in Peqiʽin is revealed in the renewed museum”. 

From right to left: Yoav Lerer, an inspector with the Israel Antiquities Authority, Margalit Zinati of Peqiʽin village, Adi Livneh, director of the Beit Zinati conservation project, Uriel Rosenboym, director of Beit Zinati
Credit: Nir Distelfeld, Israel Antiquities Authority 

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