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Entrance to Central Nave

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Entrance to Central Nave
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Photo Comments

A view looking south-southwest at the mosaic floor of at the entrance to the sixth century A.D synagogue at Bet Alpha featuring the "Binding of Isaac" and two Inscriptions.

The threshold to the entrance is seen in the foreground.  In the lower horizontal panel on the left side is a lion, and on the right is a buffalo that "guard" the entrance.

In the center are two inscriptions. The upper inscription is in Greek and reads: "May the craftsmen who carried out this work, Marianos and his son Hanina, be held in remembrance."  This father and son team also is mentioned in an inscription on the synagogue floor found at Beth Shean—they seem to have worked throughout the district.

Below that is a broken Aramaic inscription that indicates that the floor was laid during the reign of the Emperor Justin—probably Justinian I (r.  A.D. 518–527).  The synagogue building is probably older as there is another floor beneath this floor.  The inscription also states that the members of the congregation paid for the floor, donating wheat, etc.

The horizontal panel at the top of the image depicts the "Binding of Isaac."  On the left are two servants with a donkey that carried the wood for the sacrificial fire.  To the right of them is a ram tied to a tree and above it, an inscription "And behold . . . a ram."  Above the ram is the hand of God reaching out from heaven and the inscription "Lay not thy hand on the lad."  The central figure is Abraham with a knife in one hand and Isaac in the other.  Above them are the names "Abraham" and "Isaac."  To the right is the sacrificial altar with flames on it.  See Here for a detail of this image.

Information from Nahman Avigad,  "Beth Alpha." Pages 190-92 in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land — vol. 1. Edited by Ephraim Stern, Ayellet Lewinson–Gilboa, and Joseph Aviram. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Carta, 1993.

The synagogue floor dates to the sixth century A.D.  The synagogue was destroyed by an earthquake. It was discovered in 1929 and excavated by E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Today it is located on the grounds of Kibbutz Hetzi–Ba.