Huqoq, חוקוק was an ancient Jewish village 12.5 km north of Tiberias. The Arab village Yaquq was built at Huqoq’s location, and a kibbutz named Hukok was established near the site on 11 July 1945. The area had been settled since ancient times and is mentioned in the Book of Joshua 19.34. The site was inhabited in the Early and Middle Bronze Age. The Canaanites called it Hukkok, and during the Roman period it was known as Hucuca.
During the Roman period village became prosperous due to the presence of a spring. Archaeological investigations at the site of the former village of Yaquq suggest that it was inhabited in the Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Abbasid, Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. A 2011 dig led by archaeologist Jodi Magness excavated several sections at the site of the former village. Among the items uncovered was a mosaic that is said to have adorned the floor of an elaborate 1 600 year-old synagogue.
The quality and the size of the mosaic cubes combined with the great number of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest great prosperity in this village. The building clearly was very costly. This prosperity of the village contrasts with the simplicity of the Ottoman settlement and can be seen by archaeologists in animal bones which were cut by professional butchers in the ancient Jewish village, and by farmers in the Muslim period. It is apparent from both the synagogue and the absence of pork bones that the Roman period village was Jewish.
The ancient village is surrounded by associated features, including cist graves, rock-cut tombs, a mausoleum, quarries, agricultural terraces and installations, a wine-press and an olive press. Two large mikves (ritual baths) are dug into rock on the eastern and southern periphery of the ancient village. The village is mentioned in Late Roman and Byzantine period rabbinic sources.
An ancient synagogue which was uncovered in 2011 is notable for its limestone carvings and for a mosaic of the Biblical hero Samson. According to archaeologist Jodi Magness, ‘This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq)’ ….’Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.’
In the mosaic the Biblical Samson is portrayed tying burning torches to the tails of foxes, this is from a Bible story in the Book of Judges in which during a war with the Philistines Samson catches 300 wild foxes, ties burning torches to their tails and sets them loose to set fire to Philistine grain fields. It is flanked by two human faces and a Hebrew inscription referring to rewards for those who perform good deeds.