The mosaic floor of an ancient church in Shoham, in central Israel, was first uncovered in the 1980s but disappeared over the years. Now, the Israel Antiquities Authority, in collaboration with the Shoham Local Council and with the help of local volunteers, has exposed the site to visitors who hike there along the Israel National Trail.
The colorful mosaic, adorned with floral designs, is located in the Shoham Industrial Zone. A Roman-period rural villa was located at the site, as well as agricultural processing installations and several additional buildings. In the Byzantine period, a church was built on the site, on the ancient road that connected the coastal area with the Judean lowlands. The old road featured refreshing stations every few kilometers: Tel Tinshemet, Horvat El-Bira, and Horvat Hani, which offered travelers a place to rest and nourish.
“When we first came to the site, the mosaic was covered over with earth and weeds,” says Yair Amitzur, Director of the IAA Central Region Education Department. “Over the last month, we have been uncovering and cleaning up the site together with the local community. Working surrounded by the blooming flowers of the region, one can imagine the artist of the floral mosaic being inspired by this view.”
“The site was first excavated in the 1980s by Professors Zeev Safrai and Shimon Dar,” says Anan Azab, IAA Director of the Central District. “It appears the site was settled in the Iron Age or earlier, possibly as early as the Chalcolithic period, and remained inhabited through the Islamic period.”
The restoration and cleanup project are being carried out by the Shoham community and by IAA volunteers from around the country, as part of “Good Deeds Day.” The IAA and the Shoham Local Council have also established a new seating area for hikers and local residents.
The IAA team connected the site with the adjacent new offices of the IAA Central Region in Shoham, dubbing it the “Israel Trail Angels.” Amitzur notes that “thanks to the project, Israel Trail hikers will be able to stop here, replenish their water supplies, drink a cup of coffee, and hear an explanation on the site.”