NAARAH (Heb. נַעֲרָה), town in the Jordan Valley on the boundary between the territories of Ephraim and Benjamin (Josh. 16:7; I Chron. 7:28 – Naaran). It is called Neara by Josephus, who relates that Herod's son *Archelaus diverted the waters of the village to irrigate groves of palm trees (Ant., 17:340). Eusebius refers to it as Noorath and describes it as a Jewish village five miles from Jericho (Onom. 136:24). A Midrash mentions that hostile relations existed between Naarah and Jericho (Lam. R., 1:17, no. 52). The Jews living there are mentioned in late Christian sources (Simeon Metaphrastes, Life of St. Chariton (Gr.) 7:578; Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 48). Naarah is now identified with ʿAyn al-Dūk, 4½ mi. (7 km.) north of Jericho. In 1918 a mosaic pavement was accidentally uncovered there by Australian troops when a shell exploded, and some fragments were removed and transported to Sydney. The site was subsequently excavated by L.H. Vincent and B. Carrière in 1919 and 1921, and published by P. Benoit in 1961. The pavement was found to be part of a synagogue which consisted of a court with a pool, an L-shaped narthex, and a hall, 72 × 49 ft. (22 × 15 m.), paved with mosaics. On the pavement are depicted two gazelles at the entrance and geometric designs in the aisles. The nave is decorated with images of birds within interlocking rhombuses and circles; a zodiac with the sun in the center and the symbols of the seasons in the corners; Daniel flanked by two lions; two candelabra and ritual objects. Another candelabrum was depicted in front of the main entrance to the hall. Inscriptions in the pavement commemorate the donors: Phinehas the priest, his wife Rebekah, a certain Samuel, Benjamin the parnas, Marutah, Halifu, etc. The images of living beings had suffered from iconoclasm at a later date. The synagogue dates to the sixth century. The pavement (and some additional details, previously unknown) was rediscovered in 1970.
S.J. Saller, Second Revised Catalogue of the Ancient Synagogues of the Holy Land (1972), 15–17; Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 149–50; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 197; A. Ariotti, "A Missing Piece Found: Tracing the History of a Mosaic Fragment at the Church of St James from Jericho to Sydney and Back Again," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 22 (2004), 9–22.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.