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JAPHIA (Heb. יָפִיעַ), city in the territory of the tribe of Zebulun between Dobrath and Gath-Hepher (Josh. 19:12). Japhia is identified with Yafa, 2 mi. (3 km.) southwest of Nazareth. It appears as Iapu in the Tell el-Amarna letters. According to Josephus, who fortified it, it was the largest village in Galilee (Life, 230; Wars, 2:573). During the siege of Jotapata Japhia was attacked, captured, and sacked by the Romans (Wars, 3:289ff.). It remained a Jewish town however; in 1921 a synagogue lintel was found there, and in 1950 part of a synagogue paved with mosaics was excavated near the Greek Orthodox church. Its ruins include a basilical hall, 46ª49 ft. (14ª15 m.), with two rows of five columns each. The east-west orientation of the hall is unusual. The pavement contains the representation of an eagle standing on a vase whose body is shaped like a human head, tigers and dolphins, and a circle of 12 figures, of which two have been preserved. Sukenik regarded the figures as symbols of the tribes, reading the extant fragmentary inscription רים [Eph]raim; Goodenough identified them with the Zodiac, reading ריס [A]ries.


E.L. Sukenik, in: brf, 2 (1951), 8ff.; Goodenough, Symbols, 1 (1953), 216–18; em, s.v., add. bibliography: S.J. Saller, Second Revised Catalogue of the Ancient Synagogues of the Holy Land (1972), 84–85; Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 213–14; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. IudaeaPalaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 150–51; B. Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Galilee (2001), 79–83.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]