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The ancient synagogue at Baram and the Bar’am Lookout Tower

The ancient synagogue of Baram is a few kilometers from the Lebanese border in the Baram National Park, which is part of the Baram Forest. A unique part of the Baram Forest is the Baram Forest Nature Reserve, which forms about a quarter of the forest. It was protected by the Maronite Church and contains many large Kermes oak trees. Within the Baram Forest Nature Reserve is the Bar’am Lookout Tower. Consider also a hike along the Dishon Valley.

Bar’am was a Jewish village in Mishnaic and Talmudic times. This synagogue was built during the late 4th and 5th centuries CE and is one of the most impressive synagogue remains in Israel. It is built in a Roman style with dressed stones. Most impressive is its decorated entrance. The front lintel has 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 decoration on the frieze above the lintel shows grape vines with clusters of grapes. The prayer hall has three rows of columns which have been partially reconstructed with concrete pedestals and which formerly supported a second story. The ark containing the Torah, which has not survived, would have been on the southern wall facing Jerusalem, but it has not survived.


Maronite Christians lived in the village of Kefar 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 settled at this site, but later established a permanent kibbutz at Baram 2 Km to the north. There is still a Maronite church on top of the hill, but it is used only for special events.



Directions: Enter into Waze “Baram National Park.”

Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Park Authority. Summer hours are Sunday toThursday and Saturday: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm, Friday and holiday eves: 8.00- am to 4.00 pm. Winter closing is one hour earlier. There is a shaded picnic area and WC’s. 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 taken up by Christianity and Islam. The focus of 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, rather than just the priestly class, to become involved in more of the rituals of Judaism and to develop a more personal 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 that identified it as a synagogue. The earliest evidence of a synagogue in Israel comes from the 1st century CE. A Greek inscription found in Jerusalem 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 indicates that very early synagogues at the time of the Second Temple were used for reading and studying the Torah and hosting visitors, but not necessarily for daily prayer.

The Greek word “synagogue,” like its Hebrew equivalent beit knesset, means place of assembly. At this early stage, therefore, synagogues and town halls may have been one and the same, making it difficult to determine exactly when these buildings developed a religious function. 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, synagogues would be built in communities throughout the Galilee.

The architectural style of these synagogues usually reflected regional architectural styles. Hence, the synagogue of 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 areas, is usually in their interior rather than exterior, and external stones are usually undressed. Examples of this are found in Beit Alfa and Hamat Gader. Decorative symbols in the interior of these synagogue were often deliberately reminiscent of temple worship.

Hike along Nahal Dishon on the Schvil Yisrael in the Baram Forest


Several hikes are described along Nahal Dishon, but this one is a pleasant one-way 2-3-hour hike of about 4½ Km that starts a short distance from Baram National Park and continues along the stream on the Schvil Yisrael. 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 reach Route 8967 going 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 think 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 is on the opposite side of the road to the hike. Alternatively, since your car is also parked off Route 899, you could try hitching from the end of the trail. Another alternative is to start at the other end of the trail and do it in the opposite direction since the beginning of the trail 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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