The ancient town of Usha, now in ruins, was once the seat of the Sanhedrin during the Roman period. It was a small agriculture village located in the west Galilee, but was once a center of the Jewish administration in the Holy Land after the revolts against the Romans left the country in devastation.
Around the village are stone quarries, which were probably in use during the Hellenistic period or earlier during the Iron age. A Hebrew seal was found in the vicinity of Usha, dated to the Israelite Kings (8th C BC).
In the Roman times this was a small village, one of many agriculture villages in the area. The Jewish religious and administrative leadership, the "Sanhedrin", moved to this small village in years 80-116AD. After some time in Yavne (in the center of Israel) it returned here once again in 140AD for 10 years. It then relocated to Shefaram, its twin village located about 2 KM north-east. The Sanhedrin relocated later to Beit-Shearim, Sepphoris and Tiberias.
The choice of this small village as the seat of this council was deliberate - to keep its activities on a small key. At these times the Romans were suspicious of any political and religious activities, following two revolts (67-70, 131-135).
During the Byzantine period (4th-7th C AD) there was a synagogue in the village, but only fragments of the structure were found since the site was not yet excavated. Most of the village's larger stones were removed from the site and many can be found in the private houses in the nearby Kibbutzim.
The village continued until the Arabic period, and was probably destroyed in the 8th C.
During the Ottoman period (mid 19th) an Arab village was rebuilt using the ancient village stones, and was called Hushe (also Hoshe or Husha) - preserving the ancient name. The villagers in Hushe came from Algeria. Another village was established on the hill west to the site - called Kassair (Khirbet Kosher). These villages were destroyed in April 1948 during Israel's independence war, after fierce battles.
In 1937 a Kibbutz was established 3 KM to the west of the site, and was named Usha. There are two other Kibbutz near the site - Ramat Yochanan (2KM west), and Kefar Maccabbi (2.5KM west). All three are called Gush Zevulun - the cluster of Zebulun.
Khirbet Usha can be reached by the park road ("Derech Nof") that starts from Givat Ram/Tal in Kiryat Atta. See map below - the suggested parking place is marked on the right side of the map. It is 128M above sea level.
The following aerial view shows the points of interest and a map of the area. You can point on the purple points to navigate to the selected point.
The photo below shows the ruins of one of the Arab houses on the west side of the village. Behind it, in the far background on the left side, are the modern houses of Givat Ram - a superb of Kiryat Atta.
Click on the photos to view in higher resolution...
A wall stretches along the west side, just above the hillside. Integrated in this wall are ancient building elements and a well.
A view of the east side of the village is seen in the panoramic photo below. A large tree ( anacardiaceae Pistaci, or Ella Atlantit in Hebrew) is seen below.
The ruins of the Arabic village are seen in the panoramic photo below - to the left of the great tree.
Clicking on the photo will open a flash viewer, which will allow you to move around and open a full-screen view.
A panoramic view of this section, looking towards north. There are many cactus fences in the village that were used for protection. During the end of the summer you can pick their sweet fruits (Sabre)- but beware of these tiny thorns. On the far left background are the modern houses of Givat Tal, a superb of Kiryat Atta.
A detail is seen below, with a view towards the south.
A group of 3 Roman-period winepresses are located on the located on the east side of the village. The complex shares a common collecting vat - seen on the right side. The grapes would be placed on the left side, and the workers would crush them with their legs. The grape juice would pour thru a groove into the collecting vat.
The photo below is a close-up of the middle wine press. The groove led the extracted grape juice into the pit. Steps lead into the bottom of the pit (seen on the right side) in order to allow the workers to step down and collect the juice into jars, then store them for subsequent fermentation.
The hole in the center was used for secondary extraction of the juice using a single fixed-screw press. The press squeezed out the must left in the grape skins and stalks after treading. The remains of the crushed grapes would have been collected into the hole, and a pole was used to crush them once again in order to extract the lower quality grape juice.
In the village you can notice the Hazav (squill, or: urginea maritima) flowers. They flower at the end of the summer (September/October), signaling the beginning of the Autumn season. Their bulbs were also used to mark the edge of a field or lot, an ancient practice that is widespread in the Holy Land. A legend even held that Joshua used the squill bulbs to mark the borders between the tribes.
Amnon, the nature protector and the uncle of Webmaster Rotem, could not resist replacing his head with a skull of a cow...
See also in related BibleWalks sites:
The Roman road near Usha
The Sabbath stone near Usha
Etymology (behind the name):