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Ancient synagogue (Gaza)
PikiWiki Israel 14995 Mosaic of David playing the harp.JPG
Synagogue mosaic of King David
Gaza synagogue is located in Gaza Strip
Gaza synagogue
Shown within Gaza Strip
Location Gaza, Palestinian territories
Coordinates 31°31′14″N 34°25′57″E / 31.520533°N 34.432547°E / 31.520533; 34.432547
Founded508 CE
Site notes
Excavation dates1965

The ancient synagogue of Gaza was built in 508 CE during the Byzantine period and was discovered in 1965. It was located in the ancient port city of Gaza, then known as " Maiumas", currently the Rimal district of Gaza City. [1]


Section of the synagogue's mosaic floor

In 1965, Egyptian archaeologists discovered the site and announced they had uncovered a church. [2] Later a mosaic of King David wearing a crown and playing a lyre, labelled in Hebrew, was found. The mosaic was dated to 508-09 CE and measured 3 meters (9.8 ft) high by 1.9 meters (6.2 ft) wide. [3] [4] It was originally described as depicting a female saint playing the harp. [5] The Egyptian archaeologists stated that the mosaic was in fact an Orpheus mosaic, Orpheus being a figure from Greek mythology who was commonly associated with Jesus or David and used in Byzantine art. [6] Shortly after the mosaic's discovery, the main figure's face was gouged out. When Israel captured the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War, the mosaic was transferred to the Israel Museum for restoration. [6] [7]

The mosaic floor of the synagogue is on show at the Museum of the Good Samaritan, located on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road near the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Adumim in the West Bank. [8]


Mosaic floor

The best known panel of the mosaic floor shows King David, who is named in a Hebrew inscription reading "David" (דויד), while sitting and playing a lyre with a number of wild animals listening tamely in front of him. [9] The iconography is a clear example of David being depicted in the posture of the legendary Greek musician Orpheus. [9]


  1. ^ Ancient synagogues. Dan Urman, Paul Virgil McCracken Flesher. pg. 368.
  2. ^ Connie Kestenbaum Green. King David’s Head from Gaza Synagogue Restored Archived 2013-12-13 at the Wayback Machine, Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine (Mar/Apr 1994).
  3. ^ Ancient synagogues. Dan Urman, Paul Virgil McCracken Flesher. p.73.
  4. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: E-J, p. 418.
  5. ^ King David’s Head from Gaza Synagogue Restored
  6. ^ a b Israel Museum[ permanent dead link]
  7. ^ The Arab Campaign to Destroy Israel Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, American Jewish Committee
  8. ^ Mosaic museum opens in the West Bank
  9. ^ a b James R. Russell, The Lyre of King David and the Greeks, note 18. Published in Judaica Petropolitana No. 8 (2017), pp. 12-33, ISSN 2307-9053

Further reading

A. Ovadiah, "The Synagogue at Gaza," Qadmoniyot 1/4 (1968): 124-127, pls. c, d.
A. Ovadiah, "Excavations in the Area of the Ancient Synagogue at Gaza (Preliminary Report)," Israel Exploration Journal 19 (1969): 193-198.
A. Ovadiah, "Gaza Maiumas, 1976," Israel Exploration Journal 27 (1977): 176-178.
A. Ovadiah, "The Synagogue at Gaza," pp. 129–132 in Ancient Synagogues Revealed, ed. L. I. Levine. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981.

External links