One archaeological site on the Golan Heights that is free and easily accessible by car is Umm el Kanatir, which means “Mother of the Arches” in Arabic. It is named so for its proximity to a natural spring originally surmounted by three large arches. Excavations have revealed a Roman-era Jewish city and synagogue.
The site is located 10 kilometers east of the Dead Sea Transform, two kilometers west of Kibbutz Natur. Natur is third kibbutz in last 100 years to become moshav. The site of Umm el Kanatir is located in the south-western Golan Heights, map ref. 2194.2505 at the foot of Kibbutz Natur, above Wadi Samekh. The site can be reached via a new dirt road, off to the left, c. 200m from the gate of the Kibbutz.
Yeshu Dray – Umm el Kanatir
In August 2003 a project to restore the ancient synagogue began, carried out by Yeshu Dray. Yeshu Dray is a former interior designer who turned his skill into reconstructing ancient technologies. His theories are put into practice through models and full on-site reconstructions using original materials, often revising what is accepted in the academic world. Another pioneering field of his activity is employing a gamut of technologies to take apart a site and put it back together again. A crane to lift stones and put them back, running on railroad tracks, 3D laser scanning, inserting microchips to track the fallen and rebuilt locations of each stone.
A fragment of a relief of a Menorah (seven branch candelabrum) was found in one of the sectional trenches, which is a positive proof for a synagogue.
Umm el Kanatir, or Keshatot Rechavam, as it is called named after Rechavam Zeevi, boasts one of the best-preserved ancient synagogues in the land—90% of the remains (collapsed) were still in place after the earthquake of AD 749, the infamous The Seventh Earthquake, so named because it occurred in a sabbatical year. It is in the process of being reconstructed (anastylosis) by Yehoshua Dray and his colleagues.
One of the most fascinating synagogues, dated to the 6th-8th century, stands in ruins at Umm el Kanatir. The synagogue was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 749 and is now being carefully reconstructed utilizing twenty-first-century technology. The building is impressive The building was 18 meters (60 feet) long by 13 meters (43 feet) wide and calculated to have been 12 meters (40 feet) high, making it one of the largest of the over 25 ancient synagogues of the time discovered. The synagogue also indicates the relative wealth of the community. It appears that neither the town nor its synagogue was rebuilt after that devastating earthquake, though the ruined buildings were used by local shepherds for many years.
Just beyond the synagogue, the path continues to the natural spring mentioned above that was undoubtedly the reason for building there in the first place. The ample continuous supply of water not only provided for the town’s drinking needs but also became the basis for a thriving flax industry. The textile were sold to wealthy residents in the nearby towns of Sussita and Beit Saida.Much of the 1,400-year-old installation, including one of the aforementioned arches, is still intact. Their techniques must have been advanced because apparently cloth was brought from as far away as Egypt to be treated in these stone baths using the soft, mineral-rich water of the Golan which is prized even today. One of the pools of an ancient flax factory still fills with cool spring water and is shallow enough for children to splash in on a hot spring-summer-fall day in the Golan.
For our Arabic speaking friends: