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Khirbet Kerak *

Tel Beth Yerah, "House of the Moon (god)") is a tell located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern day Israel היפןקאוטס - בית הקמין, בתוכו טורי אומנות לבנים אשר חיממו את רצפת האולם Photo: Hanay

The tell of Khirbet Kerak was at certain times the site of two twin towns, Bet Yerah and Sinnabris. The Jerusalem Talmud mentions Bet Yerah as sitting alongside Sinnabri (al-Sinnabra), describing both as walled cities. The tell lies where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan river, about 15 meters above the level of the lake, in a triangular shape and approximately 1.2 km by 380 m (at its widest point), covering 60-75 acres. The Jordan river runs to the south on the east side of the Tel, although it previously (until at least the medieval period) ran west of it. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 1:1 [2b]), both Sennabris and Bet Yerah once produced kinarīm, which means “reeds”.

Bet Yerah

Tel Beth Yerah, “House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee
Photos: Hanay
Tel Beth Yerah, “House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee
Photos: Hanay
Abydos Ware – Tel Bet Yerah
Photo: Hanay
Tel Beth Yerah, “House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee 
Photos: Hanay

Beth Yerah means “House of the Moon (god)”. It is not mentioned in the Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort of his-majesty Yarih” a moon god in Canaanite religion. 

From the Early Bronze Age (3300/3500-2200 BCE) and sporadically in later times, the settlement was protected from the south and west by a city wall (the north and east facing the Sea of Galilee). The massive wall, 25 feet (7.6 m) thick, built of mud-bricks. The gate was on the south and was built of basalt. Evidence of an urban, orthogonal layout supports the claim that the city was one of the regional urban centers of the period.

Beth Yerah was a large, fortified city – one of the first in its region – at about 3,000 BCE, with evidence for diplomatic contacts with the First Dynasty of Egypt.

Khirbet Kerak Ware

Khirbet Kerak ware is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant, including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit.

Beth Yerah was home to mobile migrant communities who arrived at the site from the distant north. These were the creators of ‘Khirbet Kerak Ware’, a unique ceramic product first discovered at Bet Yerah that forms part of a culture whose roots lie in the South Caucasus.

Khirbet Kerak (or Beth Yerah) pottery from Early Bronze Age
Photo: Hanay
Khirbet kerak ware
Photo:
Fullo88 מוויקיפדיה האיטלקית

Around 2000 BCE, the city was destroyed or abandoned. A paved street, a potters workshop a tomb and other remains from the Bronze Age were excavated. Middle Bronze Age II is represented by a tomb. 

In the Hellenistic perios a town established at Bet Yerah from c. 1st century BCE to c. 1st century BCE. It was given the Greek name Philoteria by Ptolemy II Philadelphus for his sister.

Bust of Ptolemy II, National Archaeological Museum, Naples
Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen 

During the Roman period, a fortress was built here. Kerakh, meaning “fortress”, was the Aramaic name for the site in the Roman period, and it is from this name that the Arabic Khirbet al-Kerak (“ruins of the castle”) is derived.

Al-Sinnabra – صنابره צינבריי – סנבראי

Al-Sinnabra or Sinn en-Nabra, is a historic site on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The ancient site lay on a spur from the hills that close the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, next to which towards its south being the tell, Khirbet Kerak or Bet Yerah. This city was known in the Hellenistic times by the Greek name Sennabris. Sennabris was the Hellenistic era twin city of Bet Yerah.

Hellenistic Sinnabris became known as al-Sinnabra or Sinn en-Nabraصنابره in Arabic.

In the Byzantine period, a church was constructed there.

An Arab Islamic palatial complex or qasr in al-Sinnabra, known by the same name, served as a winter resort to Mu’awiya, Marwan I, and other caliphs in Umayyad-era (c. 650-704 CE).

By the Crusader period, the qasr of al-Sinnabra was in ruins. During the Crusades, it was the site of the 1113 Battle of Al-Sannabra.

Location of Sennabris on 1903 map
Photo: Public Domain
A depiction of the location of Sennabrin in the ancient Galilee, as recorded in The Historical Atlas (1923) by William R. Shepherd
Photo: Public Domain
רשות העתיקות – חפירות וסקרים בישראל

The precise location of al-Sinnabra had long been unknown.  Josephus, the 1st-century Jewish historian, described Sennabris as the northernmost point of the Jordan valley south of Tiberias. Yaqut al-Hamawi (1179–1229), the Syrian geographer situated al-Sinnabra 4.8 km north of Tiberias. A map of the area produced by the Palestine Exploration Fund depicted Khirbet Sinn en-Nabrah to the northwest of Khirbet Kerak, in the present day settlement of Kinneret.

Al-Sinnabra’s location is now confirmed to have been off the main Ramla-Beisan-Damascus highway about 6 kilometers south of Tiberias. It is situated on the tell of Khirbet Kerak.

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