Horvat Rosh Zayit - Archeological Remains in Galilee

Phoenician fortress at Horvat Rosh Zayit. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.

Horvat Rosh Zayit, where the remains of a site from the Early Israelite Period have been discovered, is situated in the Segev Forest in Lower Galilee.

  • How to get there

    The access road to the site branches off the road that leads to the Arab town of Shaab. Two hundred meters to the north of Shaab Junction, we turn eastwards (right) along a dirt track and travel along it for around 800 meters until we reach a parking lot close to some ancient olive trees. From here we continue uphill on foot for another 800 meters along dirt roads until we reach the site.

  • Geographic location-

    Sea of Galilee - the valleys and lower Galilee
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

  • Track length-

    30 minutes - 1 hour
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Season-

  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks

Projects and Partners Worldwide

The site was developed with contributions from friends of KKL JNF worldwide.

Horvat Rosh Zayit

The Hebrew name of the site is a translation of its Arabic name, Khirbet Ras Zetun (“Olive Point Ruin”). Pottery shards found in the area show that the site was initially settled in the Early Israelite Period (12th century BCE) and excavations conducted under the direction of archeologist Dr. Zvi Gal revealed a large fortress (16 x 15.5 meters) from the 10th century BCE, consisting of a central courtyard surrounded by rooms, all enclosed by imposing fortifications with no gateway; entry to the fortress would appear to have been achieved with the help of wooden ladders. Among the items found inside the compound were scores of clay vessels containing wheat seeds and pitchers for storing wine and oil.

Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

To the east of the fortress are the remains of a rural dwelling whose structure included pillars made from a single stone, a style of building characteristic of the Israelite period. Cisterns for collecting and storing water are hewn into the rock nearby. To the west of the fortress lie the remains of two oil presses, and to the south of them is a large building whose architecture is likewise characteristic of the Israelite period. It is what archeologists refer to as a “four-space house,” i.e., it comprises three long rectangular rooms parallel to one another with a fourth room built perpendicular to them on the end.

Prior to the construction of the fortress, a private dwelling from the early Iron Age stood at this site, and the archeologist in charge of the excavations has suggested that the settlement was abandoned at the time of King Solomon and resettled by Phoenician Sidonites who made it their administrative center: this was where agricultural produce was collected for dispatch to their capital, Tyre. Dr. Gal proposes identifying this change of population with the story of the land of Cabul, which is mentioned in one of the more enigmatic passages in the Bible, with reference to the deal that was struck between King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre. Shlomo received cedars, cypresses and gold for the construction of the Temple and his palace while Hiram got farm produce and land. For reasons that are not explained, Hiram was not pleased with the land Solomon had allocated him:

“…then King Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him: and they pleased him not. And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day,” (1 Kings, 9:11-13).

The name Cabul is still in use today, as it has been retained in the name of the Arab village of Kabul, which lies some two kilometers to the south-west of Horvat Rosh Zayit.

The fortress is estimated to date back to the 9th century BCE and the signs of fire found there are perhaps evidence of an Assyrian war expedition to the Phoenician coast, which may have resulted in renewed Israelite settlement slightly to the east of the fortress. Whatever the case may be, settlement at the site ceased completely in the 8th century BCE, when the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pilesar occupied Galilee.

Segev Forest

Segev Forest extends over an area of some 10,000 dunam in the western part of Lower Galilee. This is a mixed woodland where conifers such as pine and cypress grow side by side with broad-leaved trees, including Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree), carob, Pistacia palaestina (terebinth) and Pistacia atlantica (Mount Atlas mastic tree). The abundant native Mediterranean underbrush that grows beneath the trees becomes adorned in colorful blooms in winter and spring.

Horvat Beza: the discovery of the oil press. Motti (Mordechai) Aviam, who directed the excavations, can be seen wearing shorts. Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.

Horvat Beza

These ruins cover an area of around twelve dunam (approx three acres) several hundred meters to the north-west of Horvat Rosh Zayit. Pottery shards found in the area indicate settlement in the Hashmonean period. In Roman times, in the first and second centuries CE, the site was occupied by a village whose inhabitants appear to have been Jewish. Limited excavations conducted in 2007 by Dr Mordechai Aviam revealed the remains of two oil presses and a rural dwelling containing a number of ornamental architectural items that may have be the remains of an as yet undiscovered synagogue.