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RAMAT RA[Hdot ]EL Israel.

An ancient site on the S outskirts of Jerusalem, on the way to Bethlehem, within the limits of the modern settlement of Ramat Ra[hdot ]el. This site has been tentatively identified with Biblical Beth ha-Kerem, which is said to have been in the district of Bethlehem. The site, excavated between 1954 and 1962, has revealed five main occupation levels from the Iron Age to Early Arab.

The earliest remains on the site were of a series of royal citadels of the Late Iron Age. Very few building remains of the Persian-Hellenistic periods were discovered, but the numerous coins and other small finds attest an extensive settlement on the site during the 5th-3d c. B.C. The earlier phases of this period are dated by coins, Attic pottery, and stamped jar handles. Among these are included several score of seals of the Yahud type, Yahud being the official name of the Persian satrapy of Judea. Other seal impressions had the name and title of the Jewish satrap of the province. There were also seals with the inscription in Hebrew “the City,” and “Jerusalem,” as well as private seals, and seals with representations of animals. The Hellenistic phases were dated by pottery and coins.

The Herodian period is represented by several simply built small rooms, used mainly for industrial installations. Remains of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods were more impressive. To the 3d c. A.D. belong the remains of a house centered around a hypostyle court, with a bath building of which the hypocaust was preserved. The bricks of the hypocaust were stamped with the seal of the Legio X Fretensis. Other buildings as well date to the Late Roman period. The site may have been an administrative center of the Legio X, stationed in Jerusalem until ca. A.D. 300. As indicated by the pottery found on the floors of the Late Roman buildings, these remained in use throughout the whole of the Byzantine period. The area of the Late Roman-Byzantine town was honeycombed with numerous cisterns. Some of these were originally burial caves, with the latest burials made in the 3d c. A.D.

There was some building in the Byzantine period. The more important structures were a church and the monastery attached to it. The church is a basilica (22.3 x 15 m) with a single external apse, semicircular inside, polygonal outside. The foundations, 2 m deep, were built with stones taken from Herodian buildings, as identified by the typical stone dressing. A third row of columns ran along the W side of the church, forming a third aisle, perpendicular to the two longitudinal ones. The whole church was paved with mosaics of geometric patterns. On stylistic grounds the mosaics were dated to the 4th c. A.D. To the S of the church was the monastery. A vestibulum in front of the church gave entrance to a court, which led to the numerous halls and rooms, including a bakery and installations for the production of wine and oil. Other rooms probably served as a guest house for pilgrims. The church and the monastery have been identified with the traditional Kathisma (halt) of the Virgin Mary, where she was refreshed by the waters of a spring on the way to Bethlehem. This identification is supported by the presence of a nearby well. The Kathisma Church is continually referred to by Christian travelers from the mid 5th c. throughout mediaeval times.


Y. Aharoni, “Excavations at Ramat Ra[hdot ]el, 1954. Preliminary Report,” Israel Exploration Journal 6 (1956) 137-57; id., Excavations at Ramat Ra[hdot ]el, Seasons of 1959 and 1960 (1962); id., Excavations at Ramat Ra[hdot ]el, Seasons 1961 and 1962 (1964).


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