A few weeks ago, the staff of the Archeology Department of the IDF Civil Administration arrived at the area of a now abandoned training base, next door to the town of Beit El in Samaria, and, digging under the old parade grounds, they were astonished to discover a hidden Jewish city, Yedioth Aharonot reported Thursday.
The dig revealed a Jewish settlement of several dozen residents, dating back to the First Temple period. It was later inhabited during the Persian period and expanded in the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods, remaining in Jewish hands until the Roman era.
According to the finds, the site remained abandoned for years and resettled in the Byzantine period, by a Christian population, most likely monks who also built a monastery there. The excavations revealed a church, a dining room that was used by the monks, and a bathhouse that has been very well-preserved.
“The findings are amazing,” said Yevgeny Aharonovitch, an archaeologist of the Civil Administration. “We found keys for doors that were intended for housing units, we found tools that were used by Jews, and seal types belonging to the [Jewish] period.”
The Byzantine settlement continued to exist until the 7th century Muslim invasion, when it was destroyed, the Christian dwellers were expelled, and a Muslim population took their place. Remains from that period include warehouses with a large number of jars that were used for trading in olive oil.
According to Aharonovitch, the site was destroyed one last time in the great earthquake of 748 CE.