Umm-el-Kanitir

Um el Kanatir also known as Umm al-Qanāṭir, ام القناطر, אם הקשתות‎‎, ‘Mother of the Arches’ is an archaeological site on the slopes of Golan Heights dated to the 6th-8th centuries. The site is situated about two kilometers west of Kibbutz Natur. The excavations have revealed a Roman-Jewish city and synagogue. The name of the site comes its proximity to a natural spring 200m away that flows from the cliff into three basins that were once capped by monumental basalt arches only one can be seen today.

The site is thought to have been a Roman pagan town. Jews began to settle in the area in 23 BCE. The first Jewish settlers of Umm el-Kanatir established a flax industry there, using the water for washing and whitening flax from which they wove fine cloth. The textiles were sold to wealthy residents in the nearby towns of Sussita and Beit Saida. There may have been mixed farming and olives groves but there is no evidence of terracing.

In the sixth century, the Jewish residents built a large synagogue, believed to be on the site of an older simpler synagogue. The dimensions of the synagogue have been calculated to be 18 meters long by 13 meters wide and 12 meters high. This would making it one of the largest of discovered in the region. It was destroyed in the Golan earthquake of 749.

The site was first documented in 1884, by Laurence Oliphant and Gottlieb Schumacher who noted the remains of the synagogue. He writes about the discovery of a stone carving of an eagle, a fragment of a cornice, a large triangular slab that he believed was placed on the lintel of the main entrance and fragments of Corinthian capitals. The eagle is used in ancient Jewish art and is visible on a double column and on the front gable of the synagogue. The synagogue is being reconstruction under the supervision by Yehoshua Dray and Haim Ben-David of Kinneret Academic College and Bar-Ilan University.