Within the Bar’am National Park, just 300 meters south of the border between Israel and Lebanon; lies one of Israel’s oldest synagogue ruins. Dating back to the times of the Mishnah; about 1,800 years ago; the ruins left today were incredibly impressive. To survive 1,800 years against conflicts and the natural elements is purely astounding! Outside the structure, three columns still stand proud. The synagogue itself is made of Basalt stone; and you can still see the detailed front of the building.
There are three separate entrances; while the two on the sides are the more traditional square door; the center entrance is an elaborately carved arched door. The lintels above the center door are incredibly fascinating; as the wreath of branches still survives to this day. Once you enter the ancient synagogue; you must seek out the Aramaic inscription that reads “Built by El’azar son of Yudan.” It is the only factual evidence left of the synagogue, with even its name having been long lost.
Bar’am National Park
“Bar’am” translates to “Son of the People.” While it was once a solely Jewish community; it has more recently become a mixture of Christians and Muslims when the kibbutz was founded after Israel’s independence. Since this synagogue is located within the Bar’am National Park in Upper Galilee; touring this synagogue is a fantastic day trip for those looking to explore the Galilee region. Nearby; you can explore the Bar’am Oak Forest; which is home to a plethora of native Mediterranean flora; including the Kermes oak trees. Within the forest, you can also find signs for the graves of Queen Esther and Mordechai. While most scholars agree that these biblical figures from the Book of Esther are really located in Iran; it is still a fun story to explore.
The largest draw of the Bar’am National Park is the ancient synagogue ruins that are in miraculously good shape given their age. However, there were originally two synagogues; which scholars believe were due to the affluence and population size of the area. Sadly, the second, smaller synagogue has long since crumbled to dust. The only part of it that still remains in the lintel (a decorative beam that was placed above the entry). Today, the lintel is on display for countless people to enjoy at the famous Louvre museum in Paris, France. Luckily, Bar’am National Park also contains what’s left of the Maronite village who was forced to evacuate by the IDF for security reasons during the 1948 conflicts. Today, the church is still considered a spiritual center for the community and continues to hold Bar Mitzvahs and weddings.