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The mosaic zodiac - ruined
Dr. Tzivka Tzuk and Itamar Greenberg
Moti Dolev
Bits of broken mosaic from the Hamat Tverya synagogue
Moti Dolev
Mosaic floor of 4th-century synagogue vandalized
Beautiful mosaic floor of synagogue at Hamat Tverya – which dates back to the 4th century CE – cracked and spray-painted by anonymous vandals. Damage assessed at millions of shekels

In another case of vandalism at one of Israel's antiquities sites, the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue in Hamat Tverya National Park was discovered Tuesday morning to have been badly – and intentionally – damaged.

 

Workers at Hamat Tverya arrived Tuesday morning to discover that vandals had broken in overnight and cracked and spray-painted the floor of the oldest Byzantine-era synagogue in Israel.

 

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The synagogue's famous floor is a major tourist draw and features decorative elements from the fourth century CE such as a zodiac, Temple menorahs, and an arc decoration, all typical in Galilean synagogues from the same period.

 


The graffiti at Hamat Tverya. (Photo courtesy of INPA)

 

The graffiti messages targeted Shuka Dorfman, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and decried archeological excavations near ancient graves of Jewish sages.

 

Just last week, a similar case of vandalism was discovered at Tel Yavne, in which a kiln dating back to the 6th century CE – one of the oldest in the world – used for making ceramic vessels was spray-painted with the question: "What's more important – a kiln, or honoring the dead?" The act was attributed to Ultra-Orthodox opponents of the archeological excavations.

 


A mosaic depiction of the Holy Ark was cracked. (INPA) 

 

However, Monday night marked the first time that vandals have broken into a closed site. "They just broke in. The site isn't hermetically sealed, but there's a fence. This is a national park and part of the mosaic is exposed – that was the section that sustained the most damage," the INPA said.

 

INPA Director-General Shaul Goldstein said "We view the incident at Hamat Tverya in the severest light and will work to see that the offenders are punished. These are cultural and heritage sites that are hundreds of years old," Goldstein said.

 

"The INPA and the IAA are charged with protecting the precious historic treasures of Israel and we will work together to fully erase the damage done to the artifacts and the ancient synagogue at the site," Goldstein continued.

 

"This is millions' of shekels worth of damage, but as soon as we have an exact estimate we will begin the long restoration process," he concluded.

 

 

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