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January 11, 2012

Inn from the Good Samaritan Parable Becomes a Museum

Israeli archaeologist Yitzhak Magen brings together mosaics from synagogues and churches in Israel.

January 11, 2012
Biblical Archaeology

The Good Samaritan parable begins on the ancient road between Jerusalem and Jericho, where a man is robbed, brutally beaten and given up for dead before finally being helped by a passing Samaritan. The Samaritan brings the injured man to an inn and pays for his care before continuing on his journey. Although no additional details are given in Luke’s gospel as to the whereabouts of the inn, by the fifth century, the church father Jerome writes that the site of the inn is identified as Ma’ale Adummim, along the Jerusalem-Jericho road, and that there is a way-station for travelers located there.

In the late 1990s, Yitzhak Magen, the staff officer of archaeology for the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, began an excavation at Ma’ale Adummim. He discovered that the site had been rebuilt in several historical periods—the late Second Temple period, the Byzantine period, the Crusader period and the Ottoman period—and in every phase the site had apparently functioned as a khan, or way-station for travelers. In the Byzantine period a church was also built at the site (in the basilical style, like many early churches in Israel), suggesting its importance as a pilgrimage site for early Christians. The floor of the church was once a beautiful mosaic of geometric patterns that had largely disappeared in modern times, so Yitzhak Magen decided that he and his team would restore the mosaic based on early photographs taken before the tiles had disappeared.

After the successful restoration of the church’s mosaic floor, Yitzhak Magen decided that he would take the project further and, using the newly acquired expertise of his mosaic team, create a mosaic museum at the site. Because the Good Samaritan parable is connected to Jews, Samaritans and Christians, Yitzhak Magen determined that the new museum would feature mosaics important to all three religions. He brought important mosaics (or reconstructions if the original was already displayed elsewhere) from Jewish and Samaritan synagogues and Christian churches in Israel and set them up in attractive displays both inside and outside of the former inn, creating a diverse collection of mosaics that is unique in the Holy Land.

Read about the new museum of mosaics from synagogues and churches in Israel at the Inn of the Good Samaritan in Yitzhak Magen, “The Inn of the Good Samaritan Becomes a Museum,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2012.