Beit Alpha Synagogue
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A Most Unusual Mosaic Floor
It was my last day in Israel and an impending snowstorm was about to hit the east coast of the US. While my friend Uri was trying to tell me about this amazing place he was about to take me to, all I could hear was “blah, blah, blah” as my mind was focused on how to get home the next day. Uri parked the car. I had no idea where we were. I followed him inside the room. We were standing in the pitch dark. Then the lights slowly came on and I gasped in awe at the sight before me. A most beautiful and unusual mosaic floor, almost childlike in its whimsical design. The floor was the original floor of the Beit Alfa Synagogue, which was discovered by members of the nearby Kibbutz Heftsiba, in 1928. It’s believed that the floor dates back to the Byzantine period. What makes the floor so unusual are the images of both humans and animals - something you don't ordinarily see in Jewish art. The design is in three panels. The top panel depicts the Binding of Isaac; Abraham is dangling Isaac over the altar at the ready to sacrifice his son. The central panel depicts the Zodiac, which is not a symbol of the Jewish religion; scholars are still debating over its significance in the floor’s design. The bottom panel is a liturgical scene centered on the Torah Shrine. The floor is beautiful in its simplicity and a national treasure worth seeing. I arrived to Beit Alfa via car but you can also reach hear via Egged buses from Tel Aviv to Afula to Kibbutz Heftsiba.
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