by Yael Adar
Standing in the Talmudic era synagogue of Chorazin and looking down at the light blue waters of the Sea of Galilee, 900 feet below, one can’t help but be inspired. Chorazin was one of numerous towns that thrived in the Galilee – after the destruction of the Second Temple.
It is probably one of the most beautiful lesser-known ancient synagogues in Israel and one that clearly attests to a mastery of stonework, by those who built it. Built of black basalt, in the form of a basilica, the imposing structure stands in an area known in ancient times for the quality of wheat grown there.
The builders used ingenuity in getting around some of the limitations presented by their primary building material. Basalt can become brittle and break easily – this limited the length of the beams that could be used – which averaged about six feet in length, restricting the size of the rooms that could be built. Internal walls were built to support these beams while in other instances a beam was placed between arched openings (six feet from the wall) and the outer wall.
With two rows of columns along its length and one row along its width, the synagogue features lovely carvings; an assortment of Jewish symbols and has inscriptions in both Aramaic and Hebrew. It had three entrances with the front facing south, toward Jerusalem, as was the custom. One of the interesting finds located on site, is a stone seat, where the Torah reader sat. It is inscribed in Aramaic was dubbed the Chair of Moses.
The town of Chorazin was apparently first occupied in the first or second century CE. Various dates have been ascribed to the synagogue at Chorazin. It was apparently built initially in the late third or early fourth centuries CE. The town and the synagogue appear to have been destroyed in the latter part of the fourth century and were rebuilt in the fifth century.
Most of the ruins visible today are from the third-fourth centuries CE. The site spans 25 acres and in addition to the synagogue features a ritual bath (mikveh), various dwellings, and an olive press. The ancient synagogue is located in the middle of Chorazin National Park.
Along with its beautiful synagogue, Chorazin is also known as one of three cities cursed by Jesus for not accepting his teachings (see related article, Pilgrim’s Crossing).
Chorazin National Park is located on Rt. # 90 (10 minutes east of Amiad junction) – between Chorazin junction and Almagor.
Entry fees apply.