Mosaic museum opens in the West Bank
by ETGAR LEFKOVITS
Israel has inaugurated its first-ever museum of mosaics at a West Bank
site identified with Christianity.
The Museum of the Good Samaritan, which is located on the Jerusalem-Jericho
Road near Ma'aleh Adumim, was officially opened on 4 June 2009, after
a nine-year archeological excavation at the site.
The official dedication of the NIS 10 million museum, which
displays mosaics from the West Bank and Gaza, coincided with US President
Barack Obama's long-touted Middle East speech in Cairo in which he reached
out to the Muslim world.
Israeli officials at the event said that the timing of the
museum's inauguration, which was attended by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin
of the ruling Likud Party and Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov of Israel
Beitenu, as well as Christian religious leaders, was coincidental, but
also served as a timely reminder of Israel's historical connection to
"The opening of this site as a museum is a refreshing building project
during days in which there is a grave threat to the settlements, and political
winds that question the essence legitimacy of our presence here,"
Rivlin said. "Any opening of an important site such as this is a
clear and significant statement that we have not abandoned these regions
and will not cease in underscoring our national and historic roots in
these areas," he added.
9th century Byzantine mosaic - photo 2008 by Y. Tommer
The tourism minister voiced the hope that the site, which is open free
of charge to the public daily, except Saturday, will become a major tourist
attraction for Christian visitors to the Holy Land.
"I believe that this site will become a center of pilgrimage for
millions of Christians from around the world," Misezhnikov said.
The site, known as the Inn of the Good Samaritan, received its name in
the Byzantine period when it was identified with the inn mentioned in
the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament.
The site lies on the upper end of the ascent on the main road from Jericho
to Jerusalem, which pilgrims followed when traveling from the Galilee
and Transjordan to the Holy City.
Over the last decade, archeologists have uncovered remains dating back
to the Second Temple period at the site.
During the Byzantine period, the site was revived as a way station for
Christian pilgrims, and an inn was constructed that included a large church,
a cistern, residential quarters, and a fortress to protect pilgrims from
In the Crusader period, with the expansion of pilgrimage to Jericho and
especially to baptismal sites on the Jordan River, the inn was renovated
and a fortress erected above it to guard the road to Jerusalem.
The structure housing the museum was built in the Ottoman period as a
guard post, which remained in use until recently.
The mosaics on display at the museum were discovered in the West Bank
and Gaza and belong to Jewish and Samaritan synagogues - including a mosaic
from a Gaza synagogue - as well as churches.
The melange of mosaics at the museum - which are divided into an indoor
and outdoor display - was inspired by the Parable of the Good Samaritan
which features members of three faiths: Jews, Jesus and a Samaritan who
performs a merciful deed.
Source: The Jerusalem Post
Photograph from OhmyNews International