The mosaic floor of an ancient church was first discovered in the 1980s in Israel but was since covered over and not accessible. Now the IAA – Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the Shoham Local Council and with the help of volunteers, have prepared the site for visitors along the Israel National Trail. “It’s quite feasible that the mosaic artisan sat here and was inspired by the anemones flowering all around him”.
The fine colorful mosaic adorned with the flower designs that is being uncovered is located in the Shoham Industrial Zone. The IAA- Israel Antiquities Authority, together with the Shoham Local Council and with the help of volunteers, is restoring part of the archaeological site of Horvat El-Bira, that was covered over for the last 40 years, and creating a site for visitors along the Israel National Trail.
A Roman-period rural villa was located at the site, and agricultural processing installations and several buildings that served the ancient residents are extant today. In the Byzantine period, a church as built, located alongside the ancient road that connected the coastal area with the Judean Shephelah lowlands, now crossed by the modern Highway No. 6. Along the ancient road there were ancient “refreshing stations” every few kilometers: Tel Tinshemet, Horvat El-Bira, and Horvat Hani, this last site also recently conserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority. These sites offered the ancient travelers a place for a rest and for prayer, and for recovering their energy.
“When we first came to the site, the mosaic was covered over with earth and weeds. Over the last month we have been uncovering and cleaning up the site together with the local community,” says Yair Amitzur, Director of the IAA Central Region Education Department. “We are working here amongst a carpet of flowering anemones. One can just imagine that the artist of the flower-adorned mosaic was inspired by the surroundings.”
“The site was first excavated in the 1980s by Professors Zeev Safrai and Shimon Dar,” says Anan Azab, IAA Director of the Central District. “It seems that the site was settled from the Iron Age or earlier, possibly as early as the Chalcolithic period, and down to the Islamic period.”
The restoration and cleaning up of the site is being carried out by the Shoham community and by Israel Antiquities Authority volunteers from around the country in the context of ‘Good Deeds Day.’ The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shoham Local Council have also erected a new seating area for the pleasure of the hikers and the local residents.
In the framework of the project, the IAA team have connected the site with the adjacent new offices of the IAA Central Region in Shoham, by becoming ‘Israel Trail Angels’. Amitzur adds, “Thanks to the project, Israel Trail hikers will be able to stop here, replenish their water supplies, drink a cup of coffee, and “en route” (literally), receive an explanation on the site”.
According to Eli Escuzido, Director of the IAA: “It is very moving to meet good people who voluntarily enlist to enhance the local heritage, and to create a fine seating area along the Israel trail. This type of activity reflects the Israel experience at its best. I hope that every hiker along the Israel National Trail will appreciate the humane values of our heritage and will perhaps be motivated to participate in one of Israel Antiquities Authority initiatives and activities that take place close to his or her home. The archaeological heritage can be found throughout the country, one only has to raise ones’ eyes, or perhaps look down on the ground to see it!”
The Shoham Local Council Mayor, Eitan Patigro: “Shoham values its local nature and history, which plays a central role in the leisure time of the local residents. The new site is located in the heart of the Shoham High-Park Logistic Center, and I have no doubt that it will be a center of attraction for the local residents and for visitors. The proximity to the Israel National Trail and to the Food-Tracks that will be set up in the adjacent parking area, provides an opportunity for a short and interesting walk, at the same time learning about the history of settlement in the Land of Israel and specifically in our region. I am grateful to the Israel Antiquities Authority for the initiative to uncover this fascinating site, and I thank the local pupils who participated in the project.”
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority
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