The Synagogue Inscription from Kursi

Haggai Misgav, Michal Artzy, and Haim Cohen

 Hebrew University | misgav@macam.ac.il

University of Haifa | michal.artzy@gmail.com

University of Haifa | odp2006@gmail.com

Excavations in late 2015 at Kursi Beach, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee near

the foothills of the Golan Heights, uncovered a large marble slab with a Hebrew

inscription dating back at least 1,600 years. No similar artifact has ever before

been found in Israel, and it confirms for the first time that the ancient settlement

at the site was Jewish or Judeo-Christian. Dr. Haim Cohen and Prof. Michal

Artzy, from the Hatter Laboratory at the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime

Studies at the University of Haifa, led the excavation in cooperation with the

Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s Kursi

Beach site. The inscription reads as follows:

. . . ידכרון†לטב†ולברכה

דמן†טיבריה

. . . ניה†ברה†די†אתנדבון[. . .

. . . קדישה] מרמריה†לאיקרה†דאתרה

. . .]מה†יתן†חלקה[מלכה†דעל] ומן†פעלהון

. . .]ן†א[ו]ביה†וסייע†ית[. . .]ובמצוות

. . . עלמה] אתרה†קדישה†מלך†[. . .

ויסי†יתה†ויברך†יתה†אמן

KURSI BEACH EXCAVATION
The_Synagogue_Inscription_from_Kursi

INTERPRETATION

 

Will be remembered to good memory and blessing

from Tiberias?

. . .]nia his son who contributed . . .

Marble for the honor of (this) holy [place]

from their property. [King of the w]orld will give (their) part[. . .]

And commandments . . . and will help them . . .

In this land (?) of holy place. King [of world . . .]

And will heal him and bless him . . .

 

 

The words “from Tiberias” are inscribed between the first and second lines,

probably because the writer forgot to write them in the right place, i.e. after the

name of the donor, who came from Tiberias on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

The marble tablet (approximately 120×60 cm) was found on the synagogue’s

floor surrounded by a simple one-color opus sectile  . It is a unique find, as no

other such marble tablets have been found in ancient synagogues.

The inscription is a dedication and commemoration of a donor or

donors of money (or work?) to the synagogue. “Marble” is mentioned here as a

part of the donation. This corresponds to finds in many other synagogues, where

inscriptions mention architectural elements such as pillars, gates, and so on.

Since the synagogue has not been excavated fully, we do not know yet whether

there were other places where marble was incorporated in the building.

The excavation is only in its beginning, and a mosaic floor was

discovered next to the tablet. Besides this detail, the inscription contains all the

usual elements of dedication inscriptions: a blessing, the names of the donors,

and a short prayer for their wealth and health.

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