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Manahat – Malha *

Bronze Age settlement excavated in Malcha, between Kanyon Malha and Teddy Stadium Photo: Gilabrand

The site of the Manahat – Malha Caananite Bronze Age village is situated on the southern slopes of a hill – Giv’at Massua – near the bank of Nahal Refa’im (Heb., Refa’im Valley), some 6 km. southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem, on the ancient road which led from the Coastal Plain to the Judean Hills and Jerusalem.  A dig in the Rephaim Valley carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the region of the Malha shopping mall and Biblical Zoo uncovered a village dating back to the Middle Bronze Age II B (1,700 – 1,800 BCE). Beneath this, remains of an earlier village were found from the Early Bronze Age IV (2,200 – 2,100 BCE).

The Valley of Rephaim (עמק רפאים‎, Emeq Rephaim) (Joshua 15:8Joshua 18:16) is a valley descending southwest from Jerusalem to Nahal Sorek below, it is an ancient route from the coastal plain to the Judean Hills, probably named after the legendary race of giants.

Givat Massuah

Givat Massuah (גבעת משואה‎) (lit. “Beacon Hill”) is a new neighborhood in the southwest outskirts of Jerusalem, overlooking Malha.

In Givat Massua and other nearby neighborhoods there are 8th Century BCE “rogems” (A tumulus-plural tumuli a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves). Rogem #2 in Givat Massua was excavated by William Foxwell Albright in 1923

רוגם מספר 2 Public Domain


Excavations at the site in the Refa’im Valley have been conducted sporadically since 1980, but most of the remains were uncovered between 1987 and 1990, when the Biblical Zoo was established there. Remains of the village have been preserved at the Biblical Zoo. Two large villages, one on top of the other and from different periods of the Bronze Age, were excavated.

Al-Maliha and Beit Safafa
Central Zionist Archives – Public Domain

The name of the Bronze Age villages was probably Manahat (Manachat), a Canaanite town on the northern border of the Tribe of Judah. The name is mentioned in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible completed in Alexandria, Egypt in the 3rd century BCE), in the list of towns on the northern border of the Tribe of Judah. (Joshua 15: 59) and Maarath, and Beth-anoth, and Eltekon; six cities with their villages.  

The Septuagint adds another district of eleven towns. The tenth region was located in the north-central part of Judah’s hill country, and it had the following eleven towns with their surrounding villages: Tekoa, Ephrath, which is also called Bethlehem, Peor, Etam, Culon, Tatam, Shoresh, Kerem, Gallim, Bether, and Manahath (in Contemporary English Version). The Hebrew text does not have these words

An echo of the ancient name was preserved in the nearby Arab village of Malha and the modern Jerusalem neighborhood of Manhat.

Malha – al-Maliha

Malha is believed to be the site of Manahat, a Canaanite town. Malha is a neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem. Before 1948, Malha was a Palestinian Arab village known as al-Maliha (المالحه‎). In 1596 al-Maliha was a village in the nahiya of Jerusalem (liwa’ of Jerusalem). It was known as Maliha al-Sughra and had a population of 286. 

JerusalemWest1943 Public Domain

In 1838 it was noted by Edward Robinson as el Malihah, a Muslim village, part of the Beni Hasan district. Robinson was an American biblical scholar known for his magnum opus, Biblical Researches in Palestine, the first major work in Biblical Geography and Biblical Archaeology

Mary Eliza Rogers, author of “Domestic life in Palestine” passed by the village in 1855 and reported that it was on the summit of a steep hill, with large kilns for preparing charcoal on the terraces below it. At that time it was the home of one of the most influential families in the Jerusalem Mountains, the al-Shaykha. As Jerusalem expanded, al-Maliha became one of its suburbs.

Jerusalem Far West 1870s Public Domain

The British PEF surveyors who authored the “Survey of Western Palestine” saw al-Maliha in the 1883 and described it as a village of moderate size, standing high on a flat ridge. To the south of it, in a valley, was ‘Ayn Yalu. 

Malha, Jerusalem 1934
Israel State Archives – Public Domain

In the 1945 statistics the population of Malha was 1,940; 1,930 Muslims and 10 Christians, and the total land area was 6,828 dunams.

View of the village al-Maliha (Malha) in the last 1940’s or early 1950’s from the north looking southwards Public Domain

A short distance from the site is a spring, the main source of water for the villages. Fertile land, forests and grazing areas in the region made continued settlement possible. Of the village houses, scattered over an area of about 12 acres, some 30 have been excavated. They were built on natural stone terraces on the gently sloping hillside, with open areas between them.

Malha Mosque Minaret in Jerusalem Public Domain

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the village of al-Maliha, with a population of 2,250, was occupied as part of the battle for south Jerusalem. In the early part of the war, Al-Maliha signed non-aggression pacts with the Haganah. On April 12, 1948, in the wake of the Deir Yassin Massacre, villagers from al Maliha began to flee in panic. The Irgun attacked Malha in early morning hours of July 14, 1948. Several hours later, the Palestinian Arabs launched a counter-attack and seized one of the fortified positions. When Irgun reinforcements arrived, the Palestinians retreated and Malha was in Jewish control. The Arab inhabitants fled to Bethlehem, which remained under Jordanian control. The depopulated homes were occupied by Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern countries, mainly Iraq. Some of the land in Malha had been purchased before the establishment of the state by the Valero family, a family of Sephardi Jews that owned large amounts of property in Jerusalem and environs.[23]


In the Hebrew Bible, as well as non-Jewish ancient texts from the region, the Northwest Semitic term Rephaim refers either to a people of greater-than-average height and stature (possibly giants) or departed spirits in the Jewish afterlife, Sheol. In the Hebrew Bible, “Rephaites” or “Rephaim” can describe an ancient race of giants in Iron Age Israel, or the places where these individuals were thought to have lived.

The Early Bronze Age Village

A village was founded in the Refa’im Valley at the end of the Early Bronze Age (2200-2000 BCE). The houses consisted of a single story with a varying number of different-sized rooms, built on exposed rock surfaces, sometimes next to low rock cliffs. Their walls were constructed of fired bricks on low stone foundations and the earthen floors were leveled with stone surfaces. The flat roofs were constructed of wooden beams and plaster, supported by wooden posts with stone bases recessed in the floors. In some of the buildings, cultic stelae, flat standing stones, were placed against the inner walls of rooms.

In the eastern part of the village, remains of several building complexes, each extending over an area of several hundred square meters, were exposed. Each complex consisted of a number of dwelling units with several rooms. Some houses had common walls and some were built around a courtyard, probably for livestock and for domestic activities. It is assumed that these complexes were the result of several building phases: first, a single unit was built by the father of the family; then units for the extended family were added. These clusters of buildings are indicative of settlement over a period of several generations.

The livelihood of the villagers was based on agriculture and herding. Agricultural crops included grains, lentils, olives and grapes, planted on small plots of land around the village and in the valley. Livestock consisted primarily of sheep and goats, herded for grazing on the surrounding hills, and hunting of wild animals supplemented the villagers’ diet.

Pottery produced and used in the village was of hand-made coarse clay, well fired. Huwwar, the main material used by the village potters, was readily found in the limestone rock. This was mixed with sand mined from narrow, deep caves in the hard limestone within the village limits. The vessels produced were mainly large, barrel-shaped storage jars, cooking pots, cups and bowls.

The exposure of the Early Bronze Age village in the Refa’im Valley is of great importance for the study of settlement patterns at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE. Until now, researchers had believed that large cities, such as Arad and Megiddo, were destroyed by nomadic tribes at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, and that for the next several hundred years, no permanent settlements existed in Canaan. With the exposure of the remains of other villages from the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, similar to that in the Refa’im Valley, it is now evident that a village culture replaced the destroyed urban one and that these rural settlements were established by the population that had abandoned the fortified cities.

Sources:Israeli Foreign Ministry

The Later Bronze Age Village

During the Middle Bronze Age (1750-1550 BCE), a new Canaanite village was established in the Refa’im Valley with most of its houses built on those of the earlier village. The walls were built to their full height of fieldstones, laid lengthwise in layers, with a mortar of clay, straw and gravel between them. These sturdy walls have been preserved to a height of 2 m. Most floors were made of rock surfaces leveled with earth where needed; some floors were made of laid stone slabs. Dwellings were once more built individually, according to family size and topography. Stone stairs connected rooms of differing levels and provided access to the upper

Daily life in the Canaanite village in the Refa’im Valley is illustrated by the finds in the abandoned houses. These include numerous grinding stones for processing food, ovens for cooking and even a stone silo for grain storage. The grain cultivated here was harvested with wooden sickles into which flint blades had been inserted. Axes, knives, awls and bronze needles were also widely used in the village.

The Temple. In the southwestern part of the village and separate from its houses, was a rectangular (10 x 6 m.) building with thick, carefully constructed walls, which appears to have been the village temple. The entrance faced east and two short pilaster-walls extended from its façade. The internal space of the temple, which was paved with stone slabs, was divided by a partition into a narrow entrance room and a square hall. The temple stood in the center of a courtyard (temenos) surrounded by a stone fence. A small square room abutting the temple served for the storage of small clay votive vessels and a variety of cultic objects, which were found in the excavations.

The Canaanite village was situated within the area of control of the city-state of Jerusalem, the main city in this hill country, called “Shalem” in the Bible (Genesis 33:18) and “Urusalim” in royal Egyptian sources of that period. During the 18th century BCE, Jerusalem was fortified with an impressive wall, remains of which are currently being uncovered. The excavated village in the Refa’im Valley was part of a network of such rural settlements in the valley; it was a time of peace and the villagers became prosperous, selling their agricultural surplus in the markets of Jerusalem.

The remains of the houses of this Canaanite village have been preserved within the Biblical Zoo of Jerusalem.

Sources:Israeli Foreign Ministry

The Israelite Period

During the Israelite period, a new settlement was established on top of the hill above the older village. Its inhabitants built stone terraces on the slopes of the hill for planting and many of the cleared fieldstones – not used for building of terraces – were placed in high piles on the remains of the earlier buildings. The houses of the Bronze Age village were thus well preserved, together with utensils used by its inhabitants


Excavations were conducted from 1987-1990 by E. Eisenberg on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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