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Heritage sites of Jericho
The entrance to the Shalom al Israel Synagogue
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A Short Audio Introduction to Jericho's Heritage Sites

During an English-speaking tour of Jericho during the Passover holiday of 2013, while waiting for Army permission to proceed to the Shalom al Israel Synagogue, Erna Covos gave a short lecture on Jericho's main heritage sites:

(1)The Biblical Gilgal, where Israel underwent mass circumcision and celebrated their first Passover in the Land after crossing the Jordan; (2)The Jordan Crossing, marking the place where Israel crossed the Jordan into the Land; (3)The Shalom al Israel Synagogue, with its unique mosaic - a treasure - and where, in our times, regular Torah study was held until the Arab riots of the year 2000; (4)Tel Jericho, which is the city conquered by Joshua after the walls fell down - the place having come under the intense scrutiny of archaeologists, who were mystified by the single building standing whole to this day (which is Rahab's house); (5)The Naaran Synagogue, with its Hellenistic mosaic, in contrast to the Shalom al Israel Synagogue; (6)The Hasmonean Palaces and the Priestly Burial Caves.


See the articles below for more details on each one of the sites mentioned in the lecture.

Note that today, in contrast to what Erna said in 2013, visits to Tel Jericho are a regular feature of our tours.

Tel Jericho

The remains of the house of Rahab on Tel Jericho
The remains of Rahav's House

The most prominent place in Jericho is the "Tell" - the place of the Ancient Jericho.

The 'Tell' was surrounded by walls, regarding which our Rabbis taught: "One who sees the Walls of Jericho that fell must recite the blessing ‘who has made miracles for our fathers in this place.’" These walls were from the Bronze Age, which according to archaeology, had been refurbished when the occupants of Jericho faced Joshua conquering the Land.

The walls have been excavated, and it is possible to see them. What a miracle - the entire eastern section of the wall (facing the direction from which Joshua and the People of Israel came), simply disappeared. As our Rabbis taught: "...the wall was swallowed up in its place..."

The watchtower, adjacent to the wall on western side of the city, is apparently the city gate. It is conceivable that this was the house of Rahab the harlot, who resided next to the city gate. It is the only building on the site which is not totally in ruins, for the spies promised that Rahab and her household will be spared the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 2:18).

Some of the supporting walls, which can be seen today, are from the time of the Judges, when the Moabites, headed by King Eglon, briefly conquered Jericho.


Shalom al Israel Synagogue

The centrepiece of the mosaic of the Shalom al Isral Synagogue in Jericho
The centrepiece of the synagogue's mosaic

The ancient synagogue is from the Byzantine period, and is located near Tel Jericho and the Elisha Spring.

This synagogue was, without a doubt, built by a Jewish community that understood Jewish values, for the symbols on the mosaic floor teach us about the possible combinations to bring peace, holiness, unity, and prayer. And unlike most synagogues of the period, no Hellenistic symbols are found on the mosaic (in contrast to the Naaran Synagogue, also in Jericho), and there are no names of benefactors.

On the contrary, an inscription on the mosaic states that "All members of the community are remembered for a blessing, the great and the small, to whom the King of the World helped and gave strength to build this mosaic. He who knows their names, the names of their wives, children and kinsfolk will inscribe them in the Book of Life together with all the righteous. Friends of all Israel. Shalom.".

A tradition has it that this is the place where Joshua was met by the Angel of G-d before embarking on the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 5:13).


Naaran Synagogue

The mosaic of the Naaran Synagogue in Jericho
Representations of animals on the synagogue's mosaic

The synagogue is from the Byzantine period (more or less contemp­orary to the Shalom al Israel Synagogue), and situated in the ancient Jewish village of Naaran, to the north-west of Jericho

In sharp contrast to the Shalom al Israel Synagogue, its mosaic is profusely decorated with Hellenistic symbols, as was the current practice at that time. The synagogue is also much larger than the Shalom al Israel Synagogue.


The Elisha Spring

המזרקה של מעיין אלישע ביריחו
The Elisha Spring Fountain

The waters of Jericho's principal spring (later to be called the Elisha Spring) had become unhealthy, forcing the inhabitants of Jericho to buy water from nearby Naaran. The inhabitants of Naaran exploited the situation and sold their water at an exhorbitant price.

The inhabitants of Jericho therefore called the Prophet Elisha for help. Elisha promptly sweetened the spring's water, thus freeing the people of Jericho from their dependence on exorbitantly priced water from Naaran.

All this is related in the Book of Kings: II Kings (2:19-24)More 

Hasmonean Palaces

The third palace of King Herod on the western side of Jericho
Herod's Third Palace

An impressive relic of the latter, and thoroughly corrupt, generations of the Hasmonean kings, who built for themselves luxurious winter palaces on the western side of Jericho.

The palaces were built in six stages by three kings: Yohanan Hyrcanus(the son of Shimon Ben Matisyahu), his son Alexander Yanai, and finally King Herod who built three palaces, furnished with all the luxurious depravity inspired by his Roman masters.

This is an important and unique archaeological site, which bears witness to the period, but is being choked and compromised by the neighbouring Bedouins.


Second-Temple Priestly Burial Caves

Burial caves of the Second-Temple priests on the side of the mountain to the west of Jericho
Burial caves on the side of the mountain

The cemetery bears witness to Jericho being, during the Second Temple period, inhabited by Priests (Cohens) who served in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The cemetery is in the form of caves on the side of the mountain range which forms the western border of Jericho. This is the biggest cemetery of Cohens in the world.

The site has been carefully excavated and documented in the past, but the surrounding Bedouins are forever encroaching on the site, levelling the ground for building, and destroying the tombs.

More (in Hebrew)

Biblical Gilgal

The Biblical Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan
The Biblical Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan

In the time of Joshua, the first encampment of the Children of Israel after crossing the Jordan River was "on the eastern edge of Jericho" The place was called "Gilgal" because the entire Jewish People circumcised themselves. "Today I revealed (Goloti) the shame of Egypt from amongst you." (Joshua 5:9) In this place the Tabernacle was erected and stood there 14 years. The sanctity of the place was reserved for later generations. Here, King Saul was anointed, and in sharp contrast, other places of idoatrous worship were set up here during the kingdom.

Here, twelve stones were taken by the Kohanim when they crossed the Jordan River. These twelve stones are an eternal sign that the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry land.

Today, the "Jaljala" ruins is located three kilometers east of the city's centre, on the ancient path from the "Hogla" crossing to Tel Jericho. Several ruins remain there, which have not yet been excavated. It is possible that these ruins are the place of the Tabernacle, the pile of foreskins, the twelve stones, and the city itself. Nearby, there are ruins that have been excavated and found to be from the Byzantine Period.


Jordan Crossing

The place where Israel crossed the Jordan river east of Jericho
The place where Israel crossed the Jordan

One of the great events in Joshua’s conquest of the Land was the miracle on the Jordan River crossing, when the Jordan River dried up ten kilometers north of Jericho, and the Children of Israel crossed on dry land. (Joshua 3:16).

Our Rabbis established that one who sees the Jordan River Crossing should recite the blessing "Who has performed miracles for our Fathers in this place." Today, this crossing is called the "Hogla" Crossing near Jericho. From here they travelled to Jericho via Gilgal.

According to the Biblical account, twelve stones were taken from the East Bank of the Crossing adjacent to the water to Gilgal (Joshua 4:2). These stones are there to this day to remind us of the miracle.

A well-attended annual ceremony is held at “Kasser al Yehud” on the bank of the Jordan river, to mark the anniversary of the crossing of the Jordan - See the photo album of the ceremony (photos in the second half of the album) that was held in March 2018. The ceremony was held in the afternoon, after a morning spent visiting Jericho’s synagogues and Tel Jericho (photos in the first half of the album). The ceremony is always held on or around the 10th of Nissan, when the original event took place.


Biblical Beit Hogla

The ruins of the Biblical town of Beit Hogla east of Jericho
The ruins of the Biblical town of Beit Hogla

The biblical town of Beit Hogla is mentioned in the Book of Joshua, as being near the northern tip of the Dead Sea, on the frontier between Judah’s portion Binyamin’s portion: (Joshua 15:6) and (Joshua 18:19).

It is mentioned again as one of the towns of Binyamin, together with Jericho and Beit El (Joshua 18:21).

The ruins of the city are close to Highway 90, just to the north of the present-day community of Beit Hogla.

More (in Hebrew)

Mount Nebo

Looking at Mt Nebo from Beit HaArava
Looking, across the Jordan, at Mt Nebo from Beit HaArava

Moses asc­ended Mt Nebo, to look at the whole of the Land of Israel – “…all of the land of the Gilead, as far as Dan, all of Naftali, the land of Efraim and Menashe, the land of Judah as far as the last sea, the Negev, the flat plain, and the valley of Jericho the city of dates as far as Tzoar.”. And then he gave his parting speech, before departing to the next world (Deuteronomy 34:1-7) .

Today, the site is under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Jordan. It is possible to climb the mountain and (on a clear day) see the Land of Israel, as Moses would have seen it.

More (in Hebrew)

The Jericho Visitor Centre at Beit Hogla

The Visitor Centre at Beit Hogla east of Jericho
The Visitor Centre at Beit Hogla

Beit Hogla's location in the heart of the Plains of Jericho, is ideal for hosting groups and for organising lectures and tours focusing on the history and traditions of the area.

In the year 2021, we inaugurated Jericho’s Visitor Centre, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Beit Hogla.

The Visitor Centre has a number of exhibits, including a 3-dimensional map of the area, and has facilities for hosting lectures and conferences.

Some 100 metres out to the east, an Observation Platform provides a panoramic view of the Biblical Gilgal - the place where the People of Israel set-up camp after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 4:19) prior to the conquest of Jericho, the Plains of Moab on the east of the Jordan River, and Mt Nebo, where Moses spoke his last (Deuteronomy 34:5-12).

The Visitor Centre tells the story of Jericho...


Dvir in the Achor Valley

Dvir and the Achor Valley

One exciting thing from Joshua's conquest was the stoning of Achan, who partook in the consecrated booty of Jericho, in the Achor Valley. Here, with all of Israel present, lots were drawn to determine who partook in the consecrated items.

The Achor Valley is mentioned as the border between Juda and Benjamin ( The border went up to Dvir from the Achor Valley, and so northward, toward Gilgal... (Joshua 15:7)), after the Stone of Abu Ben Reuven and Dvir, which is identified in Beit Jabar A-Tachtani. It is a site bordering the Autonomy. On the south side, there is a giant amphitheatre, and in the centre there is a hill that enters it from the East to Beit Jabar A-Tachtani. This is the most fitting place, where such a multitude of people can hear from afar. It may be presumed that this is the place of Achan.

Likewise, the Achor valley is mentioned in the prophets - "And I will make the Valley of Achor a Door of Hope (Petach Tikvah)." Hosea 2:17). This desolate land became fruitful under Herod’s rule.

It should be noted that "Dvir" means "back", and this description fits.