Jotapata or Yodefat

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JOTAPATA or Yodefat

JOTAPATA or Yodefat (Heb. יוֹדְפָת), Galilean fortress. It appears as [Ia]-aṭ-bi-te among the cities captured by Tiglath Pileser iii in 732 b.c.e., together with Qana and Ruma. Four hundred of the inhabitants were deported by the Assyrians. It was possibly the home town of Haruz of Jotbah, the wife of Manasseh, king of Judah (ii Kings 21:19). In the Mishnah it is described as a fortress dating from the time of Joshua (Ar. 9:6; as Yodefat). In 66 c.e., at the beginning of the Jewish War against Rome, *Josephus turned it into a strong fortress, which served as the key to his line of fortifications protecting Galilee. After the dispersal of his army, he proceeded there and withstood a siege by Vespasian and his army for 47 days (Jos., Wars, 3:141–288, 316ff.). The fortress, as described by Josephus, was built on a ridge surrounded by ravines on all sides but the north, where a suburb lying on the next ridge was also fortified.

Jotapata continued as a Jewish town after it fell to the Romans. Following the destruction of the Temple, the priestly family of Miyamin settled there. In the period of the Bar-Kokhba rebellion Jotbah was the seat of the priestly family of Miyamin; it may also be the Gopatata referred to in the midrash (Eccles. R. 108a). The Babylonian Talmud also mentions a R. Menahem of Jotapata (Zev. 110b) and it may have been the episcopal town of Jotabe from 536 c.e. The site was identified by E.G. Schultz in 1847 with Khirbet Shifat, 6 mi. (c. 10 km.) north of Sepphoris, near Mt. Azmon. The site was subsequently explored by C. Conder and H.H. Kitchener for the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 1870s.

Excavations were conducted at the site in 1992 by D. Edwards, M. Aviam, and D. Adan-Bayewitz, revealing remains dating from the Hellenistic period through to medieval times. A fortification wall from the Ptolemaic period was uncovered with three phases of construction evident. To the northwest were the remains of a ramp dating from the time of the Roman siege in 67 c.e. The finds included remains from the battle including ballista balls and iron bow and catapult arrowheads. Rubble walls built at this location seem to have been part of the Jewish preparations prior to the arrival of the Romans. An oil press, pottery kilns, and several ritual baths (mikva'ot) were uncovered. The lower part of the site was reoccupied in the late first or early second centuries c.e., and there were also signs of occupation of medieval date.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

The modern kibbutz of Yodefat is situated north of the ancient mound. It was founded in 1961 by Israel-born youth, mostly from Haifa, unaffiliated with any countrywide settlement federation. In 1968 Yodefat had 47 inhabitants, mostly vegetarians. Fruit orchards were its main farm branch. Since then it has become a large-scale flower bulb exporter, with around 1,000 acres of land under cultivation and 369 residents in 2004.

[Efraim Orni]


E. Forrer, Die Provinzeinteilung des assyrischen Reiches (1920), 61; Saarisalo, in: jpos, 9 (1929), 39; Oehler, in: zdpv (1905), 53ff.; Alt, in: pjb, 27 (1931), 40; Avi-Yonah, Geog; idem, Atlas Karta li-Tekufat Bayit Sheni ve-ha-Talmud (1966), map no. 109.add. bibliography: D.R. Edwards et al., "Yodefat, 1992," in: Israel Exploration Journal, 45 (1995), 191–97.