Home page History of Palestine Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West The Occident Virtual Library


Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850


It is necessary first to explain the position of the towns of Naphtali, and then the territory in general. It is said in Joshua 19:33, "And their coast was from Chelef, from Aylon Bezaanannim, and Adami Hannekeb, and Jabne'el, unto Lakkum, and the outgoings thereof were at the Jordan." But of all the names of these places, there is not a vestige left at present in the country. Fortunately, however, I found an explanation of them in Yerushalmi Megillah, chap. 1, where it says that Bezaanannim is אגני הקדש Agne Hackedesh; so it is also commented in Jonathan to Judges 4:11, עד מישר אגניא דעם קדש "to the plain Aganiah, which is near Kedesh." Now the meaning of Agne in the Chaldean is "swamp, moor" (see Rashi and Kimchi, in the passage cited); and the commentary of Jonathan then translates the verse "the swampy country which is near Kedesh." But I have already stated above, in the second chapter, that Semechonitis is only filled with water in the rainy season, but is at other times a large swamp. There can therefore be no doubt that Aylon Bezaanannim was between this swampy lake and Kedesh.

It is farther said in Yerushalmi Megillah, that Adami is Damin (דמין). Now this would give us the village Dame (= Damin), 5 English miles west from the south­west point of the sea of Tiberias. It is also said, in the same passage, that Hannekeb is Zeidatha (ציידתא). I suppose to find a trace of this name in that of the village Hazedhi, 3 English miles north from Al Chatti. It is stated there farther that Jabne'el is Kefar it Yamah, i.e. the village by the sea. I thought at first to have found a correct elucidation concerning the site of this Jabne'el, since Josephus says, in his Bell. Jud., book 4, chap. 1, "The Lake Semechonitis is 30 stadia broad and 60 long, and extends to Jabne." This would seem to indicate that Jabne'el, Jabne, or Kefar Yamah, was situated on the north­west shore of Semechonitis. But I afterwards found, in other and more correct editions, instead of Jabne, "to Daphne," which really appears the correct reading, for the reasons given in the first chapter, article Riblah. I therefore believe that this Jabne'el was situated on the southern shore of Lake Chinnereth, and that it is the Jamnia or Jamnith in Upper Galilee, mentioned by Josephus in the Bell. Jud., book ii., chap. 25, and in the Life of Josephus.

Aznoth Tabor אזנת תבור although now unknown, was situated without doubt not far from the east side of Mount Tabor.

Chukkok חקק probably the village Jakuk, 10 English miles northeast from Tabor. Here is pointed out the grave of the prophet Habakkuk.

Haziddim חצדים In Yerushalmi Megillah, i., cited above, it says: "Haziddim is the same with Kefar Chittai," which is without doubt the village of Chittin, situated 5 English miles west-northwest from Tiberias. Near it is a steep and high mountain, called Kurn Chittin (see above, second chapter, page 71). This Kefar Chittai is also mentioned in Bereshith Rabbah, 65; and in Chagigah, chap. v., § 6, "Rabbi Jacob from Kefar Chittai." We also read in Yerushalmi Megillah, i., that Zer, the next mentioned town in Joshua 19:35, was near the above; wherefore, although now unknown, it must have been near the modern Chittin.

Chammath חמת In Talmud Babli, Megillah, 6a, it says, that Chammath is the same with Chamtan; and ibid. fol. 2 b, it says, "From Chamtan to Tiberias there is a distance of 1 mill." I presume this to be identical with the Emaus of Josephus, and that its situation was near the present hot spring of Tiberias; for although it is more than a mill from Tiberias, it must be observed that this is now situated farther to the north than it was in the time of the Talmud. I farther believe that Chammath is identical with the Levitical town of Naphtali חמת דאר Chammath Dor, literally "the hot springs from fire," (דאור=דאר*) in reference to the hot springs found there, of Joshua 21:32. In I Chron. 6:61, it is called:  Chammon.

* This would require a Chaldee construction, in which the Daleth is the preposition "of the."—Translator.

Rakkath רקת is, according to Megillah, fol. 6a, the later Tiberias.

Chinnereth כנרת is called in the same passage Genussar גנוסר, and was still standing in the time of Astori, and at present the ruins of Gansur can be seen 2½ English miles northwest from Tiberias. Josephus, in his Bell. Jud., b. iii., chap. 35, paints in an extraordinary manner the productiveness of the plains of Genussar גנוסר, and says that it is 30 stadia long, and 20 broad; but at present all is deserted and wasted. It is scarcely thirty years ago when this plain was like a garden of God, the fruits of which were pre-eminent in the whole country for their size and superior excellences; but the Arabs of the vicinity became engaged in a civil war, and destroyed everything, from mutual motives of revenge and infuriated passions, so that not a vestige remained.

Adamah אדמה, I believe identical with the present village Dama, situated 5 English miles west-northwest from Zafed. In Orlah, chap. ii., we read of Rabbi Dosthai from Kefar Dama, and in Menachoth, 99b, of Ben Dama בן דמא, so called, perhaps, from being a native of this place, "a son of Dama."

Chazor חצור See above, in the 31 Kings.

Kedesh קדש is the village Kudes, situated on the mountains of Naphtali, 5 English miles northwest from Lake Semechonitis, and 20 miles north from Zafed. It was formerly one of the cities of refuge (Joshua 15:7). Here are shown the graves of Deborah, Barak, Abinoam, Ja'el, and Cheber.

En-Chazor עין חצור is undoubtedly the village En-Azur, about 3 English miles south from the village Azur. (See above, art. Chazor.)

Migdal-El-Chorem מגדל אל חרם Eight miles east from Akko, is the village Medjdl al Krum. I suppose this name to be an incorrect pronunciation of Migdal-El-Chorem.*

* The author takes these three words to be one name ; but the accentuation seems to point out that Migdal-El means one, and Chorem another place.—TRANSLATOR.

Beth-Anuth בית ענות Eusebius says: "15 mill east from Sephuri is the town Bathanea." I think it ought to be "north from Sephuri;" since even at the present day there is a village called Baineh, I mile northeast from the village Medjdl al Krum. I take Baineh to be Beth-Ene = Anath. In proof of the correctness of this supposition, this place is called in Yerushalmi, end of Orlah, "Bainah," whereas in Tosephtah Kelaim, chap. i., it is called BethAna, which shows the identity of the two names.

Beth-Shemesh בית שמש. At the time of Astori, there was a village, 2½ English miles south of Sephuri, called Sumsi, which he supposed to be Beth-Shemesh of Issachar (Joshua 19:22) ; but it is my opinion that it was identical with the Beth-Shemesh of Naphtali (ibid. 38), although the position assigned it by Astori would seem to place it beyond the boundary of this tribe. (See farther, the description of the possessions of Naphtali.)

Charosheth-Hagoyim חרשת הגוים (Judges 4:2); I take this to be the village of Girsh = Chirsh, which is situated on a high mount, 1 English mile west from the Jordan bridge, the Djisr abne Jacob. Jonathan explains this name with "fort, castle;" and in truth the village of Girsh is well calculated to have been an ancient fort. It was nearly totally destroyed through the earthquake of 5597 (1837).

Tishbi תשבי (I Kings 17:1). In the book of Tobith, chap. 1:2, it is said: "Tisbi, a city in Upper Galilee, east of Kedesh, in Naphtali, and north of Asher;" the latter position appears obscure and incorrect, and ought to be "east of Asher." It may have been the birth-place of the prophet Elijah. But he is called the Gileadite; wherefore this Tishbi of the prophets, must have been east of Jordan. Josephus calls Cheshbon, in the territory of Reuben, "Tisbunis;" this place was a Levitical city (Joshua 21:39; 1 Chron. 6:66). As Elijah was, according to some, a priest, it is likely enough that he was born in a city of the Levites.

"And Naphtali touched on Judah on Jordan towards the east" (Joshua 19:34). This passage appears extremely difficult, since it assigns Judah possessions so far north in Palestine. But I think to be able to explain it in the following manner. We read in 1 Chronicles 2:21, "After this Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, took the daughter of Machir, the father of Gilead, for a wife, when he was sixty years old, and she bore unto him Segub. Segub begat Jair, who had twenty towns in the land of Gilead. And he took Geshur and Aram with the towns of Jair from them, with Kenath and the towns thereof, sixty cities. All these belonged to the sons of Machir, the father of Gilead." Aben Ezra says to Numbers 32:42, "Jair, son of Menasseh, belonged to the family of Judah, since Hezron took the daughter of Machir for wife, and begat Segub, who begat Jair, who had possessions in the land of Gilead, consequently his family name was derived merely from the mother’s side." In Baba Bathra, 112a, it is said, "Jair married a wife with many possessions and goods; she died, and he inherited the whole property." From all this we may deduce that all the possessions of Jair, "the Chavvoth Jair," beyond Jordan, properly speaking, belonged to Judah, and these separate towns were situated in Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan, opposite the territory of Naphtali. The passage in question then says that Naphtali was bounded on the east by that part of the possessions of Judah situated in Gilead, through inheritance from the female line of Machir, but has no reference to the territory of Judah proper, situated at the south and to the west of Jordan; and thus is the difficulty removed.

In Talmud and Midrashim the following names occur:

Zefath צפת of Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah, chap. ii.; the description of which in detail shall be given hereafter.

Miron מרון mentioned in Zohar to Shemini, fol. 39a, also in end of Haazinu, and probably the Mero (instead of Meron), of Josephus’ Bell. Jud., book ii. chap. 25, and the Ascent of Beth-Meron מעלת בית מרון of Rosh Hashanah, fol.18a, is the village Miron, situated on a mountain, 5 English miles to the west of Zafed. In this place and its environs are many vaults and graves, where many of our ancient learned men of blessed memory repose; especially one cave, where are deposited the remains of the celebrated Hillel and many of his disciples; another, where the equally famous Shamai and his wife lie interred. There is also found there a most ancient Synagogue, as also an unroofed college (Beth-Hammidrash), beneath which are the graves of Rabbi Shimon ben Jochai (the alleged author of the Zohar), and of his son Rabbi Eliezer. On the 33d day of Omer, on the 18th of Iyar, there is held here every year a general popular festival, which is attended by our brothers of Israel even from Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Cairo, Constantinople, &c. At night the houses are illuminated, burning torches are carried about, and they have religious dances, and innocent and modest amusements of all sorts, and you often will find several thousand Israelites in attendance at this festival, which is called הילולא דר' שמעון בן יוחאי Hilula derabbi Shimon ben Jochai, that is "Rejoicing feast of Rabbi Simeon." It appears to me that the origin of this festival is owing to that on this day, the 33d of the Omer, the day of his death, the Great Idra* was delivered by him to his scholars, as is told in Zohar, end of Haazinu, and it is consequently a festival for the Cabbalists.

* This is a lecture, if it maybe so called, by Rabbi Simeon to his scholars, and is, like the whole of the Zohar, greatly esteemed by his followers, among whom may be classed all the followers of the Cabbalah, the mystical philosophy of the Jews, and the modern Hassidim.—TRANSLATOR.

Kefar Chananiah כפר חנניא of Shebiith, chap. 9 § 2, is called כפר חנן Kefar Chanan in Midrash Ne'elam to Vayera, fol. 115a, also in Zohar Vayiggash, fol. 216b, and is the modern village Kefr Anan, 5 English miles west­southwest from Zafed. There is a Synagogue here, but it is in ruins.

Ferathi פרתי of Bereshith Rabbah to Vayechi (Rabbi Jose from Ferathi), is the modern village Ferady, 1 mile north of Kefr Anan. They point out here the grave of Rabbi Nachum, of Gimso, and in a cave, that of Rabbi Ishmael.

Kefar Sami or Simaï כפר סמי או סימאי. This place is termed Sami in Tosephtah Gittin, i., Samai in Gittin, fol. 6b, and Sama in Midrash Koheleth to chap. 7:26. Yerushalmi Challah, chap. ii., mentions that a river is found near this village. Now this points the place to be the modern village Samai, about 1 English mile south from Miron, near to which flows the Wady Leiman, in a southerly direction, and after turning it falls into Lake Chinnereth, near the former town of Tanchum, where it is called Wady Amud. This, therefore, must be the river mentioned in the passage cited as being near Samai.

Shizur שיזור is the modern village of this name, 3 English miles west from Kefr Anan; near it are the graves of Rabbi Shimeon, from Shizur, of the high priest Rabbi Ishmael, son of Elisha, and Rabbi Shimeon ben Elazar.

Kaparah קפרה is the modern village of the same name, 5 English miles west from Medjdl al Krum. Here is the vault of Rabbi Elazar, of Kaparah, and another of Bar Kaparah. It is probably the town called Kaprath in the Life of Josephus.

Sichnin סיכנין of Siphri, to Haazinu; Rosh Hashanah, 27a; Zohar Balak, 186a, is the village Sichni, situated 5 English miles south from Medjdl al Krum. They point out here the graves of Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Shimon of Sichnin.

Achbarah עכברה of Baba Mezia, 84b, is the village Echbara, 1½ English miles west-southwest from Zafed.* In Josephus’ Bell. Jud., book ii., chap. 25, it is called Achebariana.

* I found a most singular explanation in the book Aruch, art. Achbarah, where he explains the passage in Baba Mezia, 84b, בני עכברה with שכונה "the neighbours," since the word is evidently the name of a place, whence the correct rendering should be "the inhabitants of Achbarah."

Biri בירי of Baba Mezia, 84b, and Pesachim, 51a, is the village Birya, about 1 English mile north of Zafed.

Kefar Tanchum or Nachum כפר תנחום או נחום in Midrash Koheleth, 85a, it is called Kefar Nachum; in Midrash Shir Hashirim, 17b, Kefar Tanchumin; in Yerushalmi Terumoth, at end, and in Yerushalmi Taanith, i., Kefar Techumin. At the time of Astori, it was yet standing, under the name of Kefar Tanchum, about 1½ English miles east from Genussar. At present it is destroyed; the site is nevertheless well ascertained, and bears the name of Kefr Tanchum. They point out there the graves of Nahum the prophet, of Rabbi Tanchum, and Tanchuma, who all repose there, and through these the ancient position of the village is easily known. It is close on Chinnereth, and 2½ English miles north of Tiberias.

Kerazim כרזים of Menachoth,† 85a, is no doubt identical with the ruins called by the Arabs Karsaim, about 2 miles southwest from the above Kefr Tanchum.

† The assertion of Rashi to this passage from Menachoth that Kerazim was not far from Jerusalem, is not correct, since its true position was in Galilee, and Tosephtah Menachoth, 9, also controverts Rashi's statement in this respect.

Arbel ארבל of Aboth, i. § 6; Yerushalmi Peah, vii., and Yerushalmi Berachoth, i., is identical with the ruins of Irbel, 1½ English miles northwest from Tiberias. They there point out the grave of Nitai of Arbel (Aboth, i. 6), and even that of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and, between the laurel trees found there, the sepulchre of Seth, son of Adam, and that of Rabbi Zera.

Migdal, also Migdal Detzibaya* מגדל . מגדל דצבעיא Midrash Echa, 2:1, Bereshith Rabbah to Vayishlach, and Midrash Shemuel, chap. iii., is the village Medjdl, about 1 English mile northwest from Tiberias. This town is also called by the Christians, Magdelenia, and I doubt not but that this name is alluded to in the Talmud. For it is said in Pesachim, fol. 46a, מגדל נוניא "Migdal Nunia is 1 mill from Tiberias;" now there is either an error of transcribing in putting the n for 1, or a mere actual substitution of one of these liquid letters for the other, as is often done in other cases, as Beth-en for Beth-el; Djibril for Djibrin; Serain for Serail; whence I think it undoubted that Migdalnunia is no other than Magdelenia.

* This name is perhaps somewhat akin to the one mentioned as the surname of one of David’s heroes in 1 Chron. 11:37, Juasiel the Mezobaite, or of Mezobaia.

Teliman טלימאן; from certain documents I have learned that the just-named Migdal was also called Talmanuta; and I believe that this name too is discoverable in the Talmud, that it is identical with Teliman here cited, which occurs in Yerushalmi Demai, ii., as מערת טלימאן "the cave of Teliman," or, as I think, identical with the cave of Talmanuta.

Pethugtha פתוגתא so it is called in Vayikra Rabbah, chap. 5; but the פרוגייתא Perugaitha of Sabbath, 147b, is an incorrect reading; it is no doubt the village Fatigha, situated in the valley called Wady Sisaban, in a line due east from Zafed.

Gamla גמלא of Mishnah Erechin, chap. 9 § 6; Yerushalmi Maccoth, chap. 2; and Tosephtah Maccoth, chap. 2. It is stated in all these passages to be situated in Galilee, whereas Josephus places it in the district of Golan (Golanitis), on the east side of the Jordan. But I have learned from Bedouins and other Arabs, that about 5 miles south of Hunin, which is 6 miles north of Kedesh in Naphtali, the ancient Gamla should have stood on a mountain, according to a certain tradition. It is true, I could discover no trace of the town; still the tradition has a great air of probability to recommend it.

Neburia נבוריא of Midrash Koheleth to chap. 7:26; Yerushalmi Berachoth, chap. 9; is probably the ruined village Nebarti, 7 miles south of Kedes. They point out there the graves of Rabbi Joshua, of Kefar Neburia, and of Rabbi Eliezer, of Modai.

Safsufa ספסופא of Yerushalmi Terumoth, chap. 8, is the village Safsaf, between Meron and Zafed.

En-Kachal עין כחל is a name often mentioned in the preface to the work Emek Hamelech, and signifies a beautiful and large spring, existing under this name, at the present day, on the road from Tiberias to Zafed, northwest from the sea of Chinnereth.

Concerning the possessions of Naphtali in general, I can only speak when I have described and explained the towns belonging to Asher, wherefore I will then give the synopsis required.