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ESHTEMOA (Heb. אֶשְׁתְּמוֹעַ, אֶשְׁתְּמֹהַ, אֶשְׁתְּמֹעַ), levitical city in the territory of Judah, south of Hebron (Josh. 15:50; 21:14; i Sam. 30:28; i Chron. 6:42) that belonged to the family of Caleb (i Chron. 4:17, 19). According to Eusebius, in the fourth century c.e. it was still a large Jewish village in the district of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis; Onom. 26:11; 82:20). The site is occupied by the Arab village of al-Samūʿ where many fragments of synagogue ornamentation, such as reliefs of candelabra, have been found. Remains of an ancient synagogue were uncovered by excavations conducted by L.A. Mayer and A. Reifenberg in 1935–36.

On November 13, 1966, the Israeli army attacked the Arab village – then in Jordan with a population of about 2,500 Muslims – which was serving as the base of terrorist raiders who had committed a number of outrages in Israeli territory. The village fell into Israeli hands as a result of the *Six-Day War in 1967. Excavations by Z. Yeivin in 1969–70 led to the discovery of a mosaic pavement with an Aramaic inscription at the synagogue site. The synagogue differs in plan and details from the type common in Galilee in the third and fourth centuries c.e. It measures 40 ft. (12 m.) by 65 ft. (20 m.). Iron Age jewelry and ingots were found beneath the floor.


Mayer and Reifenberg, in: bjpes, 9 (1941–42), 41–44; 10 (1942–43), 10–11; idem, in: jpos, 19 (1939), 314–26. add. bibliography: A. Negev and S. Gibson, Archaelological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (20012), s.v.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]