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Ashdod, Israel

ASHDOD (Heb. אַשְׁדּוֹד), city in the southern coastal plain of Ereẓ Israel; the ancient city was 3 mi. (4½ km.) from the sea, the modern city is on the seashore.

Ancient Ashdod

In the Late Canaanite period, it served as an important harbor city as is shown by archaeological finds and references to its maritime trade in the archives of *Ugarit . According to biblical tradition, it was a town of the ancient Anakim (lit. "giants"; Josh. 11:22). After its conquest by the *Philistines , it became one of their five chief cities and they erected a temple dedicated to the god Dagon at Ashdod (Josh. 13:3; 15:46; I Sam. 5:1–7; Amos 1:8). Uzziah, king of Judah, breached the fortifications of the town and built in the area (II Chron. 26:6). In 734 B.C.E. the city capitulated to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria and in 712 B.C.E. Sargon crushed a rebellion led by Ashdod which then became the capital of an Assyrian province (cf. Isa. 20:1). Although the city was situated on the via maris, the trade route near the sea, it was not directly on the coast but possessed an ancient port which was called Ashdod Yam ("Ashdod-on-the-Sea"). With the decline of Assyrian power, the Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus I conquered the city after a siege of 29 years (according to Herodotus, 2:157). Ashdod was the Philistine capital in the post-Exilic period, so that in the days of Nehemiah, an "Ashdodite" was synonymous with a "Philistine" (Neh. 4:1; 13:24). Nehemiah fought against Ashdod's influence which extended as far as Jerusalem.

The town continued to be a district capital in the Hellenistic period when it was known as Azotus and it served as a Greek stronghold down to the days of the Hasmoneans (I Macc. 5:68). Its suburbs were burnt by Jonathan (I Macc. 10:84; 11:4) and the city was captured by John Hyrcanus (c. 165 B.C.E.; Jos., Ant., 13:324). Ashdod then remained in Hasmonean hands until its conquest by Pompey (63 B.C.E.). It was rebuilt by Gabinius (55 B.C.E.) and later changed hands several times, eventually becoming the property of Herod, who gave it to his sister Salome; she bequeathed it to Livia, the wife of Augustus Caesar, from whom it was inherited by the emperor Tiberius (ibid., 14:75, 88; 17:189; 18:31). From the time of the Hasmoneans until the second century C.E., Ashdod appears to have been a Jewish town. It declined after Vespasian's conquest. In the Byzantine period, the Madaba Map distinguished between inland "Ashdod of the Horsemen" and the bigger coastal town "Ashdod-on-the-Sea." The discovery of a chancel screen of a synagogue at Ashdod-on-the-Sea (Mīnat al-Qalʿa) with a Greco-Jewish inscription gives evidence of a Jewish community there in the sixth century C.E. Part of the Muslim-Arab townlet of Isdūd, which was in existence until the end of the Mandate period, was built on a tell called al-Ra's on the site of the ancient city. Excavations conducted by the Israel Department of Antiquities near the new Ashdod port at Tell Mor (Tell Murra) uncovered remains of Canaanite and Israelite fortifications and a Hellenistic plant for extracting purple dye from murex. A joint Israel-American expedition (directed by Moshe Dothan and for the first two seasons also with David Noel Freedman) started excavating the mound in 1962. This is situated in the arable coastal plain of Philistia, and lies about 2.8 mi. (4.5 km.) from the sea and about 9.4 mi. (15 km.) northeast of Ashkelon. Stratigraphical evidence (22 strata were uncovered) shows nearly continuous occupation from the seventeenth century B.C.E. until the end of Byzantine times. The city was fortified from the end of the Middle Bronze II period onward until the Late Bronze Age (strata XXII–XIV). The Late Bronze Age city (mentioned frequently in Ugaritic texts) was destroyed by the Philistines and Ashdod became one of the cities of the Philistine Pentapolis. At least three Philistine strata have been uncovered (strata XIII–XI) revealing a rich material culture including seals inscribed in an unknown script. Cult objects, including a musicians' stand and many kernoi and offering tables, which attest to the local religious practices of the Iron Age II period, were probably manufactured in the potters' quarter of the lower city. The excavation verified the biblical tradition of destructions by Uzziah and by Sargon II of Assyria. After its complete destruction the city reached a new peak in Hellenistic times, afterward gradually declining to a small, unimportant village.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Moshe Dothan]

Modern Period

During the War of Independence (1948–49), Egyptian forces entered Ashdod and advanced beyond it 6.3 mi. (10 km.) northward to the vicinity of Jabneh. In October 1948, the Egyptian forces were cut off in "Operation Ten Plagues" and they extricated themselves with great difficulty; the local Arab inhabitants abandoned the place with them. The modern city was founded in 1956 at the mouth of Naḥal Lachish, 4 mi. (7 km.) north of the mound of Philistine Ashdod. It received municipal status in 1968. Town planners envisaged Ashdod as Israel's second large port on the Mediterranean coast, thus shortening transport routes in the southern half of Israel, and as a major manufacturing center. The port was opened in 1965 and is biggest in the country. It has a long main breakwater and large-sized harbor basin and terrestrial area. It is linked to the country's railroad network by a trunk line and a gas refinery was later built nearby.

The town plan was based on the principle of self-contained neighborhood units, each with its own social, educational, and economic services; 16 such units were provided for in the Ashdod city plan. A large area was designated an industrial zone. Ashdod's first large industrial enterprise was the power station (a second was also built) which provided most of Israel's southern region with electricity. Large and medium-sized factories were also opened.

Ashdod's population grew rapidly from 200 in 1957 to 2,500 in 1959, 11,000 in 1963, and 30,000 in 1968. By the mid-1990s the population of Ashdod had reached 110,300, and at the end of 2002 there were 187,500 residents in the city, making it the fifth largest in Israel. Its municipal area extends over 23 sq. mi. (60 sq. km.). From the 1990s the city absorbed many new immigrants, who comprise 33% of the population. Of these, 88% are from the Former Soviet Union and the rest mainly from Ethiopia, France, and Latin America. Ashdod's population was fairly young, with nearly 130,000 of its residents below the age of 45.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]


Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 96 ff.; Beyer, in: ZDPV, 56 (1933), 248; M. Dothan, in: IEJ, 4 (1954), 229–32; 13 (1963), 340–2; 14 (1964), 79–95; 15 (1965), 258–60; Dothan and Freedman, in: Atiqot, 7 (Eng., 1967); Dothan, in: D.N. Freedman and J.C. Greenfeld (eds.), New Directions in Biblical Archeology (1969), 15–24 (incl. bibl.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dothan, in, ABD 1:477–82. WEBSITE:

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.