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Sha'ar Ha-Golan

SHA'AR HA-GOLAN (Heb. שַׁעַר הַגּוֹלָן; "Gateway of the Golan"), kibbutz founded in 1937 on the northern bank of the Yarmuk river, central Jordan valley, Israel. Next to the kibbutz is an 8,000-year-old prehistoric settlement. It was first excavated by M. Stekelis in the years 1949–52. He uncovered remains of a previously unknown culture, which he named "Yarmukian Culture" after the nearby river. Pottery appears here for the first time in Israel, gives this cultural stage its name as Pottery Neolithic. In the years 1989–2004 Y. Garfinkel conducted large-scale excavations and uncovered ca. 3,000 sq.m.

The new excavations clarify that Sha'ar ha-Golan is of outstanding importance for a number of reasons. Surveys and excavations have shown that it is some 20 hectares in area, making it one of the largest settlements of its period in the world. The excavations uncovered three large courtyard houses, ranging between 250 and 700 sq.m. in area. Monumental construction on this scale is unknown elsewhere in this period. The houses consist of a central courtyard with several small rooms around it. This is an architectural concept that still exists in traditional Mediterranean societies. The courtyard house makes its first appearance at Sha'ar ha-Golan, giving the site a special importance in architectural history. The houses were separated by streets that constitute evidence of advanced community planning. Three passageways were uncovered, including a central street about 3 m. wide, paved with pebbles set in mud, and a narrow winding alley 1 m. wide. These are the earliest streets discovered in Israel, and among the earliest streets built by man. A well, 4.26 m. deep, was dug into the water table. It is indicative of advanced hydrological knowledge and technological engineering. Exotic objects discovered in the excavations include sea shells from the Mediterranean, polished stone vessels made from alabaster (or marble), and blades made from obsidian (volcanic glass) from Turkey. These point to trade connections extending over 700 km.

About 300 art objects were found at Sha'ar ha-Golan, making it the main center of prehistoric art in Israel and one of the most important in the world. Among the outstanding art objects are figurines in human form made of fired clay or carved on pebbles. The overwhelming majority are female images, interpreted as representing a goddess. The clay figurines are extravagant in their detail, giving them a surrealistic appearance, while the pebble figurines are minimalist and abstract in form. Because of the unique artistic quality of the figurines the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Louvre Museum in Paris have mounted 10-year exhibits of selected objects. In Israel, figurines are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and in the local museum built in Kibbutz Sha'ar ha-Golan.

[Yosef Garfinkel (2nd ed.)]

The kibbutz is affiliated with Kibbutz Arẓi Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir. It was founded by pioneers from Czechoslovakia as a tower and stockade settlement and soon came under attack in the Arab riots. In the *War of Independence, the kibbutz lay exposed to attack and, on May 18, 1948, it became untenable as the invading Syrian Army, together with Iraqi and Jordanian contingents, took nearby Ẓemaḥ and advanced on Deganyah. The site was recaptured, however, together with the neighboring kibbutz Massadah, two days later. Both villages had been completely destroyed, and although they remained on the front line, the settlers immediately began reconstruction. In the following two decades, and particularly in the period preceding the *Six-Day War (June 1967), the nearby Syrian and Jordanian positions repeatedly harassed the kibbutz. Although the capture of the Golan Heights in June 1967 removed the danger from the Syrian side, the kibbutz, situated on the Jordanian border as well, continued to suffer from frequent shelling. In 1970 Sha'ar ha-Golan had 590 inhabitants, dropping to 503 in 2002. In spite of its security problems, the kibbutz developed a model economy based on subtropical irrigated field crops, bananas, avocados, dates, beehives, poultry, and dairy cattle. It also had a plastics factory, a few stores at the nearby Ẓemaḥ junction, and guest rooms.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]


Stekelis, in: IEJ, 1 (1951), 1ff.; 2 (1952), 216–7; E. Anati, Palestine before the Hebrews (1963), 263ff. WEBSITE:

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