Eric M. Meyers

The ancient synagogue of Shema’, partially reconstructed after excavation. It has a number of unusual features. It is broader than it is long. Scholars therefore call it a broad house synagogue. Protruding from the back wall are the remains of the bema or dais from which the Law was read on Mondays, Thursdays and the Sabbath. Nothing remains of a wooden Torah ark which the excavators suggest was behind the bema. The synagogue could be entered by a series of descending steps (in background) perhaps in literal fulfillment of Psalm 130: “Out of the depths have I called to thee, O Lord.” Underneath the stairs is a room which may have served as a genizah or depository for worn out scrolls and books. The room showed traces of frescoes on the wall. The main entrance to the synagogue was by the doorway at the lower right. The lintel with the menorah, or seven-branched candelabra (pictured above), originally set above the doorway to the synagogue’s main entrance.