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The ancient synagogue at Baram 

The ancient synagogue in the Baram National Park has been partially restored and is one of the most impressive ancient synagogues in Israel.

Kfar Bir’im was a Jewish village in Mishnaic and Talmudic times. The synagogue was built during the late 4th and 5th centuries CE. Partial restoration of its first floor has revealed one of the most impressive synagogues in Israel. It was built in a Roman style with dressed basalt stones. Most impressive is its decorated entrance of three doors with six columns. The front lintel contains a carving of a wreath of branches. This was once flanked by additional decorations, possibly winged figures of Victory, but these have been defaced. The frieze above the lintel is decorated with grape vines with clusters of grapes. The prayer hall has three rows of columns that have been partially reconstructed with concrete pedestals, and these supported a second story. The ark containing the Torah has not survived, but would have been on the southern wall facing Jerusalem.


Maronite Christians lived in the village of Kfar Bar’am from the late 16th century when they moved from Lebanon. They were forced to relocate during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and they moved to Gush Halav (Jish). Palmach soldiers initially settled at this site, but later established a kibbutz, Kibbutz Bar’am, 2 Km to the north. There is a Maronite church on top of the hill, but it is used only for special events.

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Directions: Enter into Waze “Baram National Park.”

Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Park Authority. Summer hours are Sunday to Thursday and Saturday: 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., Friday and holiday eves 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.. Winter closing is one hour earlier. There is a shaded picnic area and restrooms. There is no store. Their telephone number is 04 698-9301. For their website click here.

Public transport. There is an infrequent bus service between Tel Hai and Jish that stops at Baram. Enter into Moovit "Baram."

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When was the synagogue invented?


The invention of the synagogue as a house of prayer was a major innovation in Jewish religious life, and this form of worship would be adopted by Christianity and Islam. The focus for prayer in Judaism was initially the Temple, and the synagogue would only take over this function after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. This innovation allowed everyone, other than just the priestly class, to become involved in more of the rituals of Judaism and to be able to develop a closer relationship with God.

The earliest archaeological evidence of a synagogue comes from Egypt, where dedication inscriptions were discovered on a structure dating from the 3rd century BCE identifying it as a synagogue. The earliest evidence of a synagogue in Israel comes from the 1st century CE from the Theodotus Inscription found on a stone block or stele in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem. Its Greek inscription reads: “Theodotus, son of Vettenos the priest achisynagogus, son of an archisynagogus and grandson of an archisynagogus, who built the synagogue for purposes of reciting the Law and studying the commandments, and the hostel, chambers and water installations to provide for the needs of itinerants from abroad, and whose father, with the elders and Simonidus, founded the synagogue.” This inscription tells us that very early synagogues during the time of the Second Temple were used for reading and studying the Torah and hosting visitors, although not necessarily for prayer.

The Greek word “synagogue,” like its Hebrew equivalent beit knesset, means place of assembly. At this early stage, synagogues and town halls may have been one and the same, making it difficult to determine when these buildings developed a religious function. This is the case, for example, for the ancient synagogue at Um el-Umdan in Modi’in. As architecturally-identifiable structures, synagogues did not become a fixed institution in Judea until shortly before the destruction of the Second Temple. When the Galilee became the center of Jewish life after the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132 to 136 CE, synagogues were built in Jewish communities throughout the Galilee.

The architectural style of these early synagogues usually reflected regional architectural styles. The synagogue in Bar’am is in a Roman style with dressed stones and an impressive façade. By contrast, the architectural richness of later Byzantine synagogues, especially in mixed Jewish and Christian areas, was usually in the interior rather than exterior, and external stones were usually not dressed. Examples of this can be seen in Beit Alfa and Hamat Gader. The decorative symbols in the interior of these synagogue frequently reflected temple worship and was one way for perpetuating the memory of the Temple and wishing for its restoration.

Hike along Nahal Dishon on the Schvil Yisrael 


There are a number of hikes along Nahal Dishon. This is a pleasant one-way 2 to 3-hour hike of about 4½ Km through the Baram Forest that starts a short distance from Baram National Park and continues on the Schvil Yisrael along the stream. In the winter months there is flowing water, but the stream may be dry in the summer.


Go to the parking area off route 899 between Tzomet Hiram and Route 8967, but closer to Route 8967. Enter “צומת חירם” into Waze. If coming from the south, at the junction turn in the direction of Bar’am and Kiryat Shemona. The parking area is on your right. If you come to Route 8967 to Ba’ram National Park you have gone slightly too far.


Take the black-marked trail until you reach the gorge and then turn left along the Schvil Yisrael. Eventually you will come to the main road, Route 899.


You will need to plan how to get back to your car. If you have a second car, the end of the hike is a parking area off Route 899. Enter “עין ערבות” into Waze and click on “עין ערבות Israel.” The turning and parking area for the hike are on the opposite side of the road to the hike. Alternatively, you could try hitching a ride from the end of the trail. Another alternative is to do this hike in the opposite direction. The beginning of the hike is much easier this way. You can then fit the distance into your available time and turn back whenever you wish. You will be crossing the stream on stones on a few occasions.

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Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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