JABNEH (Yavneh; Heb יַבְנֶה; Ar. Yibnā ﻳَﺒْﻨَﻰ), biblical city located on the coastal plain, S. of Jaffa. Jabneh first appears in the Bible as Jabneel, on the northern border of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:11). It is counted as one of the Philistine cities, together with Gath and Ashdod, whose walls were breached by Uzziah king of Judah (II Chron. 26:6). The site of the biblical city is located on the tell in the village of Jabneh, which contains Iron Age remains. Earlier remains can be found at various sites along the Sorek River (Wadi Rubin), especially at Tell al-Sultan, northwest of Jabneh. In the Middle Bronze Age, a settlement was also established on the seacoast at Jabneh-Yam, which later served as the harbor of inland Jabneh. This harbor formed a separate entity as the center of the district of Maḥoz, which is possibly mentioned as early as the time of Thutmose III in his list of conquered cities (no. 61) and in the *El-Amarna letters. The remains of the harbor city show evidence of settlement in the Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Ages down to the Byzantine period; it is surrounded by a rampart and a wall approximately 3/5 mile (1 km.) long.
In the Hellenistic period, Jabneh (called Iamnia or Jamnia; Gr. ʾΙάμνια) was included in the eparchy of Idumea, but was later transferred to Paralia. During that period the traders of Jabneh-Yam dedicated inscriptions at Delos to the gods Hauran and Heracles-Melkart. A Greek inscription found in 1986 suggests that a Sidonian colony settled there by the end of the Persian period. The city was used as a base by the foreign armies for repeated attacks on Judean territory (I Macc. 5:58). At the time of the Maccabean revolt, Jabneh had a Jewish community, which was threatened with extermination by the rest of the population. As a warning, Judah Maccabee attacked the harbor and burned the ships (II Macc. 12:8–9). Jonathan the Hasmonean fought one of the decisive battles of the Maccabean revolt in the region (I Macc. 10:69ff.); another battle was fought near the city under Simeon (I Macc. 15:40). According to Josephus, Simeon captured the city (Ant., 13:215), but since the Books of Maccabees do not mention such a conquest, it is preferable to attribute it to Hyrcanus. At the accession of Alexander Yannai, Jabneh was already a Hasmonean city (Jos., Ant., 13:324) and the entire population was Jewish. Pompey attempted to revive it as a gentile town in 63 B.C.E. (ibid., 14:75; Wars, 1:157), leaving the actual work of reconstruction to his deputy Gabinius (Wars, 1:166); however, the new town was short-lived as an independent unit. It was probably given to Herod at the time of his accession. He willed it to his sister Salome (Ant., 17:321; Wars, 2:98); after her death it passed to the empress Livia, and then to her son Tiberius. It was the seat of an imperial procurator (Ant., 18:158). By then, the city was purely Jewish and was a toparchy of Judea (Wars, 3:55). In the first Jewish war, it was occupied by Vespasian; Titus passed through it on his way to Jerusalem. When R. Johanan b. Zakkai left besieged Jerusalem and arrived
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted at Jabneh, first under R. Johanan and then under the patriarch Rabban Gamaliel II (Tosef., Ber. 2:6). The Sanhedrin met in the upper story of a house or in a vineyard near a pigeon house. In some respects, the city was now regarded as the equal of Jerusalem: there the year was intercalated and the shofar blown, and pilgrims from Asia visited the city three times a year (Tosef., Ḥul. 3:10; RH 29b; Shab. 11a). Among the most important decisions made at Jabneh was the arranging of the definitive canon of the Bible. Between 70 and 132 C.E., Jabneh was "the great city, the city of scholars and rabbis"; most of the tannaim of this period taught there and Rabban Gamaliel was buried there. The city is described as being situated near a stream of water; its wheat market was well known and cattle and poultry were raised in the vicinity.
With the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jabneh ceased to be the center of Jewish life in Ereẓ Israel and the Diaspora. After the war, unsuccessful attempts were made to transfer the Sanhedrin from Galilee back to Jabneh (RH 31a–b). A strong Jewish element remained in the city, but the Samaritans constituted the majority (Tosef., Dem. 1:13). A Samaritan inscription belonging to a synagogue was discovered there. By the fifth century, the city was predominantly Christian and the bishop took part in the church councils at Nicea (325 C.E.), Chalcedon (451 C.E.), and Jerusalem (518 and 536 C.E.). The Arabs conquered the city in 634 C.E. In Crusader times it was turned into a fortress called Ybellin, a fief of the noble family of Balian that served as a base for operations against Muslim Ashkelon.
Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 352–3; Avi-Yonah, Geog, index; EM, S.V.; Ben Zvi, in: BIES, 13 (1948), 166–8; Dothan, ibid., 16 (1952), 37ff.; Kaplan, ibid., 21 (1957), 199–207; H. Hirschensohn, in: Yerushalayim, 10 (1914), 311–3; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 1 (1927), 83ff.; M. Stein, in: Zion, 3 (1938), 118–22; G. Alon, ibid., 183–214; S. Klein (ed.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), 74–77; idem, Ereẓ Yehudah (1939), index; Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), 120, 126; Alon, Toledot, index; Alon, Meḥkarim, 1 (1957), 219–73; E.E. Urbach, in: Behinot, 4 (1953), 61–72; J. Neusner, Life of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai (1962). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Fischer (ed.), Yavne-Yam and its Vicinity (1991); Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 149–50; F. Vitto, "Mahoza DYamnin: A Mosaic Floor From the Time of Eudocia?" in: Atiqot, 35 (1998), 109–34; B. Isaac, "A Seleucid Inscription from Jamnia-on-the-Sea," in: IEJ, 41 (1991), 132–44; B. Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Judea and Negev (2002), 174–75; G.S.P. Grenville, R.L. Chapman, and J.E. Taylor, Palestine in the Fourth Century. The Onomasticon by Eusebius of Caesarea (2003), 137.