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NIẓẓANAH (Heb. נִצָּנָה; Gr. Nessana), a ruined town in the Negev identified with ʿAwjā al-Ḥafīr on the Ismailiya road, 50 mi. (80 km.) S.W. of Beersheba. Nessana was the ancient name of the site as revealed in the papyri found there. It was founded in the second or first century B.C.E. by the Nabateans, who built a small fort with round towers (two of which were found in the excavations there) on a small hill dominating the wide and fertile Wadi Ḥafīr. Hasmonean coins found there indicate that the place had commercial relations with Judea. The site was abandoned after the Roman occupation of Petra, the Nabatean capital, in 106 C.E., but was rebuilt as a frontier post by the emperor Theodosius I (379–95). The soldiers of the garrison received plots of land in the valley, and a town was built beneath the fortress (now called Hospice of St. George). Niẓẓanah was connected by a road with Elusa, the capital of the Byzantine Negev, with Elath and with Sinai. The Byzantine town included two churches with mosaic floors (one dated 435) and a large cemetery with tombstones (dated 430–64). It prospered during this period, serving merchants bound for Egypt, pilgrims traveling to Mt. Sinai, and anchorites living in the desert. The town survived the Persian and Arab conquests; papyri discovered by the Colt Expedition in 1936 show that a mixed Arab-Greek administration persisted until approximately 750 C.E. The settlement declined and was eventually abandoned until its reoccupation by the Turks as a police post in 1908. Under the British Mandate a central headquarters for the border police was located there. In May 1948, during the Israel *War of Independence, the Egyptian invasion started from this point. Israel forces took the area in December, and it was declared a demilitarized zone in the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement. It was also the site for the Israel-Egyptian Mixed *Armistice Commission meetings until 1967.


H.D. Colt et el., Excavations at Nessana, 3 vols. (1958). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Urman (ed.), Nessana: Excavations and Studies, vol. I (2004). Website:

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.