At the southern end of the renovated, seventh-century Meroth synagogue, a complex of rooms served as a Meroth community center. In the photo above we see this complex from the east. In the right foreground, a classroom for children appears as a raised platform with one column on its left wall. To the left of the classroom and behind it as well in the upper center of the photo, a courtyard extends.

At the upper left of the photo, to the left of the courtyard, is a beth midrash, a house of study for adults. Remains of stone benches line the walls of the beth midrash. Originally, fine mosaics covered the floor throughout (reconstruction drawing, below).

One of these mosaics (below), on the south side of the beth midrash, under an archway, illustrates Isaiah 65:25: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together.” Beneath an inscription of the Isaiah passage, an almost obliterated wolf and lamb stand on either side of an amphora filled with water. The seventh century was a troubled time for Jews in the Galilee, ruled first by the Byzantines, then conquered by Persians, ruled again by the Byzantines and then, finally, conquered by Arabs. Perhaps this mosaic reflects the people’s hope for a new era of peace.

To the east of the wolf and lamb mosaic, archaeologists discovered a mosaic floor pattern of two shofarot, or ram’s horns, flanking a Torah ark (below), identified only by its surviving pediment. Perhaps people who studied in the beth midrash prayed in this eastern section. Pomegranates and heart-shaped leaves above the ark and date clusters below it may suggest the “seven varieties” associated in Deuteronomy 8:8 with the Promised Land, “a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.” In fact, excavated remains of wine and olive presses confirm that the people of Meroth earned their living growing olives and grapes, as well as raising sheep and cattle.

In the eastern wall of the beth midrash, above the entrance doorway (drawing and photograph, below) a stone lintel inscribed in Hebrew beckoned with the assurance, “Blessed shall you be in going in and blessed shall you be in going out” (Deuteronomy 28:6). Above the 5.5-foot-long inscription, a large wreath terminates in a knot of ivy tendrils. On either side of the wreath, with wings faintly seen, is—or was—an eagle. The eagles were intentionally destroyed in the eighth century, probably by the same iconoclasts who destroyed the images in the stone zodiac.