JABNEH (Yavneh ; Heb יַבְנֶה; Ar. Yibnā ﻳَﺒْﻨَﻰ), biblical city located on the coastal plain, S. of Jaffa. Jabneh first appears in the Bible as Jabneel, on the northern border of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:11). It is counted as one of the Philistine cities, together with Gath and Ashdod, whose walls were breached by Uzziah king of Judah (ii Chron. 26:6). The site of the biblical city is located on the tell in the village of Jabneh, which contains Iron Age remains. Earlier remains can be found at various sites along the Sorek River (Wadi Rubin), especially at Tell al-Sultan, northwest of Jabneh. In the Middle Bronze Age, a settlement was also established on the seacoast at Jabneh-Yam, which later served as the harbor of inland Jabneh. This harbor formed a separate entity as the center of the district of Maḥoz, which is possibly mentioned as early as the time of Thutmose iii in his list of conquered cities (no. 61) and in the *El-Amarna letters. The remains of the harbor city show evidence of settlement in the Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Ages down to the Byzantine period; it is surrounded by a rampart and a wall approximately 3/5 mile (1 km.) long.
In the Hellenistic period, Jabneh (called Iamnia or Jamnia; Gr. ʾΙάμνια) was included in the eparchy of Idumea, but was later transferred to Paralia. During that period the traders of Jabneh-Yam dedicated inscriptions at Delos to the gods Hauran and Heracles-Melkart. A Greek inscription found in 1986 suggests that a Sidonian colony settled there by the end of the Persian period. The city was used as a base by the foreign armies for repeated attacks on Judean territory (i Macc. 5:58). At the time of the Maccabean revolt, Jabneh had a Jewish community, which was threatened with extermination by the rest of the population. As a warning, Judah Maccabee attacked the harbor and burned the ships (ii Macc. 12:8–9). Jonathan the Hasmonean fought one of the decisive battles of the Maccabean revolt in the region (i Macc. 10:69ff.); another battle was fought near the city under Simeon (i Macc. 15:40). According to Josephus, Simeon captured the city (Ant., 13:215), but since the Books of Maccabees do not mention such a conquest, it is preferable to attribute it to Hyrcanus. At the accession of Alexander Yannai, Jabneh was already a Hasmonean city (Jos., Ant., 13:324) and the entire population was Jewish. Pompey attempted to revive it as a gentile town in 63 b.c.e. (ibid., 14:75; Wars, 1:157), leaving the actual work of reconstruction to his deputy Gabinius (Wars, 1:166); however, the new town was short-lived as an independent unit. It was probably given to Herod at the time of his accession. He willed it to his sister Salome (Ant., 17:321; Wars, 2:98); after her death it passed to the empress Livia, and then to her son Tiberius. It was the seat of an imperial procurator (Ant., 18:158). By then, the city was purely Jewish and was a toparchy of Judea (Wars, 3:55). In the first Jewish war, it was occupied by Vespasian; Titus passed through it on his way to Jerusalem. When R. Johanan b. Zakkai left besieged Jerusalem and arrived at the Roman camp, he asked the emperor to "give him Jabneh and its scholars" (Git. 56b).
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted at Jabneh, first under R. Johanan and then under the patriarch Rabban Gamaliel ii (Tosef., Ber. 2:6). The Sanhedrin met in the upper story of a house or in a vineyard near a pigeon house. In some respects, the city was now regarded as the equal of Jerusalem: there the year was intercalated and the shofar blown, and pilgrims from Asia visited the city three times a year (Tosef., Ḥul. 3:10; rh 29b; Shab. 11a). Among the most important decisions made at Jabneh was the arranging of the definitive canon of the Bible. Between 70 and 132 c.e., Jabneh was "the great city, the city of scholars and rabbis"; most of the tannaim of this period taught there and Rabban Gamaliel was buried there. The city is described as being situated near a stream of water; its wheat market was well known and cattle and poultry were raised in the vicinity.
With the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jabneh ceased to be the center of Jewish life in Ereẓ Israel and the Diaspora. After the war, unsuccessful attempts were made to transfer the Sanhedrin from Galilee back to Jabneh (rh 31a–b). A strong Jewish element remained in the city, but the Samaritans constituted the majority (Tosef., Dem. 1:13). A Samaritan inscription belonging to a synagogue was discovered there. By the fifth century, the city was predominantly Christian and the bishop took part in the church councils at Nicea (325 c.e.), Chalcedon (451 c.e.), and Jerusalem (518 and 536 c.e.). The Arabs conquered the city in 634 c.e. In Crusader times it was turned into a fortress called Ybellin, a fief of the noble family of Balian that served as a base for operations against Muslim Ashkelon.
In Rabbinic Literature
Even before the destruction of the Second Temple, the town was a center of Torah with a well-known bet din, consisting of 23 members, which tried capital cases (Sanh. 11:4; Sif. Deut. 154). During the Jewish War, even before the civil war in Jerusalem, the town made its peace with Vespasian (Jos., Wars, 4:130; cf. 4:663). *Johanan b. Zakkai quickly became the leader not only of the town itself, where he displaced the "sons of *Bathyra" (rh 29b), but also of a notable section of the Jewish population of Ereẓ Israel and even of the Diaspora. He turned Jabneh into the center of halakhic study as well as the new seat of the self-governing administration of the population in place of destroyed Jerusalem (see rh 4:1–2). Jabneh's position was further consolidated with the rise of Rabban *Gamalielii (called "of Jabneh"). The academy of Jabneh was called "the vineyard at Jabneh" (Tosef., Eduy. 1:1, Yev. 6:6; Ket. 4:6; Ber. 63b; et al.). Rabbinic literature mentions many incidents that happened in Jabneh and its scholars ("our rabbis of Jabneh" – Ber. 17a; "our rabbis in Jabneh" – Ket. 50a; "the scholars of Jabneh" – Kid. 49b; "scholars in Jabneh" – Nid. 15a; "elders in Jabneh" – Tosef., Kelim bb 5:6) are mentioned with praise: "They who went to Jabneh, to a place where disciples and scholars are numerous and love the Torah, their name became great in Torah" (arn 14, 59). In Jabneh the new moon was proclaimed and the year intercalated, and there several important takkanot were made – among them formulations of the 18 blessings of the Amidah and the "blessing" against Christians and other heretics (see *Amidah). At Jabneh the dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel was decided in favor of the latter (tj, Ber. 1:7, 3b). The scholars of other academies and other localities also showed great interest in the learning at Jabneh (Tosef., Sot. 7:9, Yad. 2:16). Questions and questioners reached Jabneh from all parts of Ereẓ Israel and the Diaspora (Par. 7:6; Tosef., ibid. 7 (6):4, Ḥul 3:10, Mik. 4:6, Nid. 4:3, Kil. 1:3 and 4). The decisions and customs of Jabneh had their influence in the halakhah not only during the period of its hegemony (Tosef., Nid. 6:9), but also after its decay and even in the time of the Babylonian amoraim (Nid. 50b). The foundations for the editing of the *Mishnah were laid at Jabneh, and the main part of tractate *Eduyyot was arranged there. It is referred to as the "treasure house of Jabneh" (Tosef., Dem. 1:13–14).
The outlook of the scholars of Jabneh is testified to by their saying: "I am a creature and my fellow is a creature. My work is in the town and his work is in the country. I rise early for my work and he rises early for his work. Just as he does not presume to do my work, so I do not presume to do his work. Will you say, I do much and he does little? We have learnt: Both he who does much and he who does little [do well], provided he directs his heart to heaven" (Ber. 17a). Because of the great work accomplished in Jabneh, which served as a center for the revival of the people and the halakhah after the destruction of the Temple, the name came to be used in the 19th century – not altogether accurately – for the idea of a spiritual center.
[Moshe David Herr]
Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 352–3; Avi-Yonah, Geog, index; em, s.v.; Ben Zvi, in: bies, 13 (1948), 166–8; Dothan, ibid., 16 (1952), 37ff.; Kaplan, ibid., 21 (1957), 199–207; H. Hirschensohn, in: Yerushalayim, 10 (1914), 311–3; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 1 (1927), 83ff.; M. Stein, in: Zion, 3 (1938), 118–22; G. Alon, ibid., 183–214; S. Klein (ed.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), 74–77; idem, Ereẓ Yehudah (1939), index; Baron, Social2, 2 (1952), 120, 126; Alon, Toledot, index; Alon, Meḥkarim, 1 (1957), 219–73; E.E. Urbach, in: Behinot, 4 (1953), 61–72; J. Neusner, Life of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai (1962). add. bibliography: M. Fischer (ed.), Yavne-Yam and its Vicinity (1991); Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 149–50; F. Vitto, "Mahoza DYamnin: A Mosaic Floor From the Time of Eudocia?" in: Atiqot, 35 (1998), 109–34; B. Isaac, "A Seleucid Inscription from Jamnia-on-the-Sea," in: iej, 41 (1991), 132–44; B. Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Judea and Negev (2002), 174–75; G.S.P. Grenville, R.L. Chapman, and J.E. Taylor, Palestine in the Fourth Century. The Onomasticon by Eusebius of Caesarea (2003), 137.