Deir ‘Aziz

By Zvi Uri Ma‘ozChaim Ben-David


The ruined village of Deir ‘Aziz is located 6.5 km east of the Sea of Galilee (380 m above sea level) near the Kanaf moshav. It extends over the edge of the Golan plateau down the slope of Naḥal Kanaf (Wadi Deir ‘Aziz–Wadi Samata) toward the spring of Deir ‘Aziz. Results of a surface survey indicate insignificant settlement during the Early and Middle Roman periods (first century BCE–third century CE, 8 percent of the ancient pottery) and a flourishing village in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (fourth–eighth centuries CE, 78 percent of the pottery). The site was also occupied during the Mameluke period (thirteenth–fifteenth centuries CE) and the twentieth century.

The remains of a synagogue lie on the slope, roughly midway between the top of the ruin and the spring. This structure was first described and drawn in 1885 by L. Oliphant, who did not, at the time, identify it as a synagogue. In 1885 the eastern façade of the building remained standing to a considerable height (c. 4 m, 10–12 courses) and the undecorated eastern portal was still intact. Reuse of the structure in the 1950s as a dwelling and storage place caused considerable damage, leaving only about half the height of the east façade intact. The remainder of the building is described here in detail. It was identified as a synagogue in 1979 during a survey by Z. U. Ma‘oz on the basis of its exterior walls, several entryways facing east and west, and two interior columns visible above the sloping ground surface. At the uppermost part of the settlement are the remains of a solidly built ashlar structure (42.7 by 27.45 m), preserved to a height of three courses. Though the function of this structure is unclear, its size and plan make it unsuitable for use as a synagogue.

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