GOFNAH (Gufnah , or Bet Gufnin ; Heb. גָּפְנָה), town in N. Judea that is first mentioned in the Second Temple period. The Talmud refers to it as Bet Gufnin, a name derived from the Hebrew root gefen ("vine"). Gofnah replaced Timnah as the center of a toparchy in the time of Herod and continued to occupy this position in later times (Jos., Wars, 1:45; 3:55; Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 5:15, 30). In the middle of the first century b.c.e., the inhabitants of Gofnah were sold into slavery by the Roman general Cassius for failure to pay taxes, but they were freed shortly afterward by Antonius. The city was part of the area under the command of Hananiah b. Johanan in 66 c.e. during the Jewish War. Vespasian occupied it in 68 c.e., established a garrison there, and concentrated the priests and other important persons who had surrendered to him in the city (Jos., Wars, 6:115). Gofnah is also mentioned in the Talmud as a city of priests (Ber. 44a; tj, Ta'an. 4:8, 69a). In the Middle Ages it continued to exist as Gafeniyyah. It is marked as a road station on the Peutinger Map; Eusebius places it 15 miles (24 km.) north of Jerusalem on the road to Neapolis (Onom. 168:16). Remains found there include a Jewish tomb with inscribed ossuaries, one of which mentions a Judah, son of Eleazar (in Aramaic); a Greek inscription, Salome daughter of Iakeimos, in a burial cave; a Roman villa; and a Byzantine church.
On the site of historical Gofnah there is now the Arab village of Jifnā, which in 1967 had 655 inhabitants, of which 538 were Christians and the rest Muslims (for the number of inhabitants in the 19th century, see Bagatti's figures). There were 961 residents in 1997. One of the folk legends about Jifna refers to the hill opposite the village called Jebel ed-Dik ("Mount of the Rooster"). Apparently a Jew from Jifna was in Jerusalem during the final days of Jesus. When he perceived that Jesus had risen from the dead, he immediately converted and when arriving back home told his wife what had happened. She replied that she could not believe it, unless the rooster she had just killed and half-plucked would come back to life. Suddenly the rooster revived and flew away to the mountain. Its Greek Orthodox church of St. George stands on medieval and Byzantine foundations. Another church may exist close to the village. Tombs, buildings, installations, and other remains are also visible in the vicinity.
Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 137; B. Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria (2002), 135–40.
[Michael Avi-Yonah and
Efraim Orni /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]