March 25, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

Israeli archaeologists have identified the palace of the Umayyad caliphs at al-Sinnabra – modern Beth Yerah or Kh. el-Kerak – on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

A 1950’s archaeological excavation had identified the large fortified structure as a synagogue, but recent excavations undertaken by the Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology headed by Raphael Greenberg and research conducted by Taufik Deadle of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have determined that in fact the “synagogue” is the Palace of al-Sinnabra, where Umayyad rulers used to spend the winter months near the regional capital at Tiberias.

The existence of a palace at al-Sinnabra is reported by early Arab historians of the Umayyad dynasty, but its precise location was long unknown. The historians say it was used by the first Caliph, Mu’awiya, as well as by Abd al-Malik, the builder of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

The palace was a center of royal activity, with the fate of princes being decided within it. After the fall of the dynasty, al-Sinnabra declined and the palace was dismantled down to its foundations.

Greenberg says that, “… because of its unique location next to an earlier Byzantine church and a short distance away from the historical cemetery of early Zionist pioneers… the more ancient remains at the site as well as the lake itself, we have a remarkable convergence of natural and historic values that represent the full complexity of the heritage of present-day Israel.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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