Ancient synagogue found in Jordan Valley

A 1,500-year-old Samaritan synagogue has been uncovered in the Jordan Valley.

The remains of the synagogue and a farm were discovered in September near Beit Shean during an archaeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The building includes a rectangular hall that faces southwest toward Mount Gerizim, the holiest site in the Samaritan religion. The floor of the hall was a colorful mosaic decorated with a geometric pattern.

The farmhouse was comprised of a central courtyard surrounded by storerooms; its southern part features a residence, guest hall and industrial installations.

According to the antiquities authority, the temple was built at the end of the fifth century C.E. and remained until the eve of the Muslim conquest in 634 C.E., when the Samaritans abandoned the complex.

It is the third Samaritan temple discovered in the Beit Shean area.

Samaritanism is an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism that follows the Samaritan Torah, which adherents say is what the ancient Israelites practiced before the Babylonian Exile. — jta