Postcard from Israel – Yodfat

The most famous resident of the ancient town of Yodfat (Jotapata), nestled between the hills of the Galilee, was Yosef Ben Matityahu – otherwise known as the historian Josephus Flavius; author of The Jewish War

When the Great Revolt against the Romans broke out in the year 66 CE, the town was fortified with a wall – probably under orders from Yosef Ben Matityahu himself. In the summer of the year 67 CE, the Romans besieged the town and a fierce battle took place during the next 47 days, culminating in the fall of the town, the slaughter of most of its residents and Yosef Ben Matityahu being taken prisoner. 

“And on this day it was that the Romans slew all the multitude that appeared openly; but on the following days they searched the hiding-places, and fell upon those that were under ground, and in the caverns, and went thus through every age, excepting the infants and the women, and of these there were gathered together as captives twelve hundred; and as for those that were slain at the taking of the city, and in the former fights, they were numbered to be forty thousand. So Vespasian gave order that the city should be entirely demolished, and all the fortifications burnt down. And thus was Jotapata taken, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero, on the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz].” (The Jewish War, 3.336)

Archaeological excavations have revealed the town’s fortifications, ruined and burnt houses, the remains of hundreds of the dead and arrow heads and ballista stones used by the Romans to conquer the town. A walk among the ruins also leads one to caves used by the town’s residents as hiding places and many water cisterns. 

In 1960 Moshav Yodfat (now famous for its flower bulb nurseries) was established on the nearby hillside overlooking the site of the ancient town. 

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