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The Ancient Village of Itri, Judean Hills

 Village of Itri –  חורבת עתרי

Itri is an archaeological site of an ancient Judean village that was destroyed during the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans nearly 1900 years ago (132 -136 CE).

The site was excavated in recent years, Dr. Boaz Zissu and Amir Ganor. The are several “Hiding Caves” on the site, some of which have been converted to burial caves with exquisite relief engraving of Jewish symbols.

It was a village of extremely pious Jews that has a large synagogue, four mikvas (ritual baths), and one of the most well-preserved winepresses from the period of the Second Temple. In one of the mikvas the archaeologist found the bones of 15 victims with their property, evidence of the Bar Kochba Revolt. The synagogue has a secret passage leading to a Hiding Cave. The village is off the beaten tourist path, quite near the valley where David fought Goliath in the western Judean foothills.  The site is located in modern day Israel and is situated in the Judean Hills, southeast of Bet Shemesh.

The name Itri which not yet noted in hiking maps comes from a clay ostracon found on the site, which was probably an agricultural receipt. The site derives its name from the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Atra.

How to get there: Drive south on Route 38 to the entrance to Givat Yishayahu. Continue 500 meters more south turn left (East) to a paved road marked “black” and follow the JNF road signs. Continue 2.4 kms and pass Khirbet Midras. Continue to drive another 3.7 kms till you reach a “T” and turn right. Drive for another 500 meters and by a cypress grove turn left  on a road marked “blue”. Drive one km to the parking area.

Photo: Tania Susskind

The visit to the site takes about one hour to walk one km by foot. The site is not accessible to visitors with special needs. Don’t forget you flashlights if you want to enter the caves!

The  white Virgin’s Bower or Clematis (זלזלת הקנוקנות) which blooms here in January and February was mentioned by the Rambam as a medicinal plant.

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