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Bersabe (Hebrew: באר שבע);(Greek: Βηρσαβέ, Βηρσουβαί), or Beer Sheba of the Galilee, was a Second Temple period Jewish village located near the town of Kefar Hananya which marked the boundary between the Upper Galilee and the Lower Galilee, as described by Josephus,[1][2] with Upper Galilee stretching from Bersabe in the Beit HaKerem Valley to Baca (Peki'in) in the north. Bersabe was one of several towns and villages of Galilee fortified by Josephus during the First Jewish–Roman War,[3] being one of the most defensible positions[4] and where insurgents from across Galilee had taken-up refuge against the Imperial Roman army when the surrounding countryside was plundered.[5]

באר שבע
Bersabe - Kh. Abu Sheba looking out toward Kfar Hananya.jpg
View from atop of Bersabe (Khirbet Abu esh-Sheba)
Bersabe is located in Mandatory Palestine
Shown within Mandatory Palestine
Bersabe is located in Israel
Bersabe (Israel)
Alternative nameBeer Sheba of the Galilee
RegionBetween Upper and Lower Galilee
Coordinates32°55′23″N 35°25′07″E / 32.92306°N 35.41861°E / 32.92306; 35.41861Coordinates: 32°55′23″N 35°25′07″E / 32.92306°N 35.41861°E / 32.92306; 35.41861
PeriodsIron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab
CulturesJewish, Greco-Roman
Site notes
Excavation dates1976, 1985, 2000, 2004
ArchaeologistsMordechai Aviam, Oren Tal - Y. Tepper - Alexander Fantalkin, Uzi Leibner

The ancient village has been identified with the present site of Khirbet es-Saba, a hilltop ruin within a distance of less than a kilometer of the village Kafr 'Inan (Kefr ʿAnan), at the eastern fringe of the Beit HaKerem Valley, and rising some 472 metres (1,549 ft) above sea-level.[6] The same site has been rendered by other authors under the name Khirbet Abu esh-Shebaʿ, a little northwest of Kefr ʿAnan and closely adjoining Farradiyya/Parod to their southwest.[7][8] The site lies 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) eastward of the Arab town of er-Rameh, along Route 85, and about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) southwest of Safed.

In 1873, Kitchener and Conder, on a surveying mission with the Palestine Exploration Fund, visited the site and mentioned it as being "a large ruin, which stands upon the terraced hill top."[9] A survey later conducted at the site reveal that the village had occupied an area of about 70 dunams (17.3 acres).[10]

From a prospect on Mount Kefir in the Mount Meron range, as one looks out over the hilltop ruin of Bersabe, the square layout or lines where once stood the walls of the town can still be distinguished.[11] The line of the ancient wall extended over an area comprising the upper third of the hill.[10] The thickness of the northernmost wall, where the hill was easily accessible, is measured at 2.8 metres (9.2 ft), and was built with three semi-circular watch towers. The easternmost wall was built in a zig-zag configuration. The walls were constructed of fieldstones.


Fate of town's defendersEdit

The fate of the town's defenders has not come down in writing, although Josephus alludes to it in his Life's Autobiography (§ 65) where he writes: “...I was in the power of the Romans before Jerusalem was besieged, and before the same time, Jotapata was taken by force, as well as many other fortresses, and a great many of the Galileans fell in the war.” This would have happened in the second year of the war, in the 13th year of Nero's reign, sometime between the capture of Jotapata (in the lunar month of Tammuz) and the capture of Tarichaea (in the month of Elul that same year), and which effectually brought an end to the war in Galilee.[13]

The usual Roman procedure in cases involving open rebellion was to kill the able-bodied men who rose up in rebellion, but to sell into slavery all captive women and children.[14]

Archaeological findsEdit

Potsherds from the Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Arab periods have been found on the site.[11] Only one square near the ancient wall has been excavated.[15] Mordechai Aviam who excavated the site has noted that the ancient ruin has yielded large quantities of "Galilean Coarse Ware" (GCW)[16] and other Hellenistic and Early Roman shards and coins.[17] Coins found at the site date from the fourth century BCE to the second century CE.[18] Unidentified razed structures and rock-cut cisterns are scattered across the hilltop, as well karst caves.

Pottery found at the site proves the continuation of the settlement deep into the 3rd century CE.[10]

Further readingEdit

  • Oren Tal, "Fortifications of Josephus in Beersheba of the Galilee", pub. in: Jerusalem and the Land of Israel: Sefer Arieh Kindler (ed. Amar & Zohar), Museum Eretz Israel: Ramat Gan 2000, pp. 155–163 (Hebrew)
  • Meyers, E.M., Strange, J.F., and Groh, D.E., "The Meiron Excavation Project: Archaeological Survey in Galilee and Golan, 1976," in: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (No. 230 - April 1978), pp. 1–24



  1. ^ Josephus, Vita 188
  2. ^ Josephus, De Bello Judaico (The Jewish War) II, 572; III, 35 (Wars of the Jews 3.3.1)
  3. ^ Josephus, Vita § 37
  4. ^ Josephus, De Bello Judaico (The Jewish War) II, 572 (Wars of the Jews 2.20.6)
  5. ^ Josephus, De Bello Judaico (The Jewish War) III, 59 (The Jewish War 3.4.1); III, 110 (ibid. 3.6.1)
  6. ^ Mason, S. (2001), pp. 179; 182
  7. ^ Avi-Yonah, M. (1953), p. 95
  8. ^ Thomsen, P. (1966), p. 43
  9. ^ Conder & Kitchener (1881), p. 235.
  10. ^ a b c Aviam (2008), p. 41
  11. ^ a b Aviam, M. (1983), p. 38
  12. ^ Josephus (ed. G.A. Williamson). "The Jewish War". Penguin Books. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  13. ^ Josephus, De Bello Judaico (The Jewish War 4.1.1)
  14. ^ As in the case of Jotapata (Wars of the Jews 3.336), Tarichaea (The Jewish War 3.532), Japha (Wars of the Jews 3.289), Machaerus (The Jewish War 7.216, in Penguin edition), Gerasa (The Jewish War 4.486), with Gamla and Joppa being the only known exceptions where men, women and children were killed.
  15. ^ Aviam (2004), p. 92
  16. ^ These ceramic ware vessels are coarse and handmade (only the rim is sometimes finished on a wheel) and the brown-red ware is characterized by the use of large inclusions, thus named by Mordechai Aviam "Galilean Coarse Ware" (GCW). This ware first appeared during the Persian period and was used extensively during the Hellenistic period (Frankel et al. 2001).
  17. ^ Aviam (2004), p. 63
  18. ^ Aviam (2004), p. 95


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