The "Shalom Al Yisrael" synagogue of Jericho was discovered in 1936 as part of excavations by D.C. Baramki of the Antiquities Authority under the British Mandate. The 10 by 13 meter mosaic floor was identified as a synagogue due to its image of the Ark of the Law (Aron HaKodesh), a menorah, a shofar and lulav, and a Hebrew inscription reading "Shalom Al Yisrael", or "Peace Upon Israel" - from which the synagogue derives its name.
This synagogue, founded in the late Byzantine period [sixth century CE], is noted for the fact that it contains no animal or human representation. A contemporary ancient synagogue in nearby Na'aran, on the other hand, does contain animal images and a representation of the biblical Daniel.
After Israel's victory in the 1967 War, some Jews began visiting Shalom Al Yisrael in Jericho and other holy sites throughout the West Bank. A local Arab built a house over the site and charged admission to visitors; in 1986 the National Parks Authority purchased the building.
On a visit to the site at the beginning of September 2000, In Jerusalem asked the Palestinian guards about their relationship with the yeshiva. "We're all friends here, and we have no problems" was all that they would say.
In 2005 a group of Israelis were able to visit the synagogue after IDF soldiers restored the site. Currently the IDF allows only monthly visits - on the first of every Jewish month - in order to conduct prayer services.
For more about Jericho, see www.JewishJericho.org.il.
Text based on an article by Doron Geller in Nov 17, 2000 issue of "In Jerusalem" © 2000 Jerusalem Post.
Top photo of Shalom Al Yisrael mosaic optimized from picture in the WZO web-site. Bottom photo shows Mitzpe Yericho resident and tour guide Mordechai Weiss in the Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue.