Emperor Septimus Severus changed Beit Guvrin’s name to Eleutheropolis (“City of the Free”) and granted it municipal status. Two aqueducts brought water from afar, and together with local waterworks, supplied the needs of the residents. Besides swellings, the city boasted an amphitheater and public buildings. The Jewish settlement was rehabilitated, and in the 3rd-4th centuries, Beit Guvrin was mentioned in the Talmud and Midrashim – Commentaries on the Scriptures – and by its sages. From the Roman and Byzantine periods, a large Jewish cemetery and architectural remains were discovered, as was a synagogue inscription. During the Byzantine period, Beit Guvrin was an important center of Christianity with a number of churches. Most of the bell caves were dug during the Early Muslim period, and findings from the Crusader period indicate that it was a small fortified city, at the hub of which was a church dedicated in 1136. The city was surrounded by Crusader villages, and apparently the Church of St. Anne was restored at about the same time.
About the Author: Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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