ELUSA (Gr. Ελουσα), Nabatean city in the Negev, now the ruins of Ḥaluẓa (Ar. al-Khalaṣa), 12 mi. (20 km.) S.W. of Beersheba. Elusa was the starting point of the roads leading from Palestine to Egypt and Sinai in the Roman and Byzantine periods (Ptolemy, Geography, 5:15, 7; cf. Peutinger Map, where it is located 71 Roman miles from Jerusalem, 24 from Eboda, and 53 from Thamara) and especially of the pilgrim road to Sinai (Theodore, Itinera Hierosolymitana, 78). Elusa was colonized by the Nabateans in the last decades of the first century c.e. In the fourth century c.e. Elusa was the seat of a school of rhetoric and had its own police chief; the city's area extended as far as Nessana (Nessana Papyri). In Targum Jonathan (Gen. 16:14) Elusa is identified with Bered. The monk Hilarion visited Elusa and was served wine from the local plantations; the inhabitants of the city apparently spoke Aramaic (Jerome, Vita Hilarionis, 25). Its bishops participated in the church councils from 431 onward. In Arab times Elusa was the seat of a district governor who was under the jurisdiction of the governor of Gaza. The site was surveyed by E. Robinson (1838), E.H. Palmer (1869/1870), A. Musil (1897), A. Jaussen, R. Savignac and H. Vincent (1905), and C.L. Woolley and T.E. Lawrence (1914). Although the ruins of the city are extensive, they were greatly damaged by the builders of Gaza during Turkish and British Mandate times. Some of the city's dumps were excavated in 1936 by the archaeologist H. Dunscombe Colt. Excavations were conducted at Elusa by A. Negev in 1973, 1979, and 1980, revealing fortifications (represented by a tower), an area of dwellings, a theater that had been repaired in the fifth century c.e. (based on the evidence of an inscription which speaks of a new floor made for the "old theater"), and a Byzantine period church, one of the largest known in the Negev Desert. Additional, smaller, churches are known at Elusa. A Nabatean cemetery was also discerned near the settlement. New excavations were conducted at the site in 1997 by H. Goldfuss and P. Fabian in the area of the Roman theater, the construction of which can now be shown to date from the late second or early third century c.e., with its abandonment taking place in the sixth century c.e. Additional work was done in an area of pottery workshops on the edge of the settlement.
C.L. Woolley and T.E. Lawrence, The Wilderness of Zin (1915), 113, 145; A. Musil, Arabia Petraea, 2 (Ger., 1907), 67–77; M. Schwabe, in: Zion, 2 (1937), 106–20; idem, in: bjpes, 4 (1936/37), 61–66; C.J. Kraemer, Excavations at Nessana, 3 (1958), geographical index, s.v.Elousa.add. bibliography: Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 119; H. Goldfuss and P. Fabian, "Haluza (Elusa)," in: Excavations and Surveys in Israel, 111 (2000), 93–94; A. Negev and S. Gibson (eds.), Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (2001), 156–58; P. Fabian and Y. Goren, "A New Type of Late Roman Storage Jar from the Negev," in: J.H. Humphrey (ed.), The Roman and Byzantine Near East;jra Supplement No. 49 (2002), 145–55; R. Rosenthal-Heginbottom (ed.), The Nabateans in the Negev (2003).
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]