Ancient Usha – Visitors Guide with Background Information


Ancient Usha

Ancient Usha was a city in Western Galilee, and it is known as one of the sitting places of the Sanhedrin. And today we are going to visit it.

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Map

Ancient Usha is located not far from Kiryat Ata and Shefaram. More specifically, by road #70 and Somekh Interchange.

The easiest way to reach this spot is by entering “Ancient Usha” into Waze (here is a link). Just make sure the destination is to the east of road #70. I made a mistake and entered Usha to Waze, and it took me to kibbutz Usha, which is a different place.

Interactive map of the area:

And here is a map of the scenic road at Tzipori forests:

Map of the scenic road at Tzipori forests
Map of the scenic road at Tzipori forests

You can see Ancient Usha at the top left corner of the map (there is also a closeup in the bottom left corner).

Note: you can click on the map to enlarge it.

Trails

There are many possible hikes in this area. And the Sanhedrin Trail (there is additional information below) is one of the know tracks, but in this section, I will suggest a short loop trail between Ancient Usha and Shabbat territory stone. Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il where this trail is marked:

NameColor of the Trail on the Map aboveDescriptionDistance (km)Total climb and descent (meters)Notes
Ancient Usha and Shabbat territory stoneBlueAn easy trail in the forest connecting two points of interest1.8128You can always make this trail a little longer by hiking in the forest

Entrance Fee

Free.

Opening Hours

Visit only during daylight.

Picnic and Barbeque

Ancient Usha National Park is adjacent to Kiryat Ata Forest. And on your way, you will see picnic tables.

Kiryat Ata Forest
Kiryat Ata Forest

Restrooms

None.

Tours

Ancient Usha is an active archeological site. And during December 2020, there were digging activities. We registered for such a tour, but unfortunately, it was canceled due to rain. Thus, several weeks afterward, we visited by ourselves.

Until the end of November 2021, there are tours from Ancient Usha to Shabbat territory stone. You can find additional info and register here.

Where is Usha Mentioned?

Usha was an important city during Mishnah and Talmud periods (firth to fourth centuries CE). And since the Bible was canonized before, Usha is not mentioned in the Bible.

The earliest mention of Usha is on a Sennacherib Prism found on site. Usha is also mentioned several times in the Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, and other places.

And now, let’s visit ancient Usha and talk about Sanhedrin.

Sanhedrin

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Sanhedrin exiled out of Jerusalem. Initially, the Sanhedrin was in Yavne, but afterward, it moved to Usha, Shefar’am, Beit Shearim, Tzipori, and Tiberias.

And near the entrance to ancient Usha, you can find one of the Sanhedrin trails stones with the relevant quote.

The Sanhedrin exile
The Sanhedrin exile

And the quote is:

The Sanhedrin was exiled…from Jerusalem to Yavneh, and from Yavneh to Usha, and from Usha to Shefarbm, and from Shefar’am to Beit Shearim, and from Beit Shearim to Zippori, and from Zippori to Tiberias

Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah, 31a-b

And here is the relevant map from Beit Shearim:

Diagram of cities where the Sanhedrin stayed
Diagram of cities where the Sanhedrin stayed

Usha was one of the seating places of the Sanhedrin. What was Sanhedrin?

Sanhedrin comes from the Greek term sunedrion (literally, “sitting together”) meaning council. The Sanhedrin is both a Jewish judicial and administrative body. The Sanhedrin was composed of local elites–including members of the high-priestly family, scribes (religious experts), and lay elders.

source

What did the Sanhedrin do?

The Sanhedrin functioned as the supreme Jewish religious, legislative, and educational body.

How many members did the Sanhedrin have?

The Great Sanhedrin, or simply the Sanhedrin, had a president and seventy sages.

The Sanhedrin Trail

The Sanhedrin Trail is a 70 km long trail in Galilee. It was created in 2017 as preparation to celebrate Israel’s 70th Independence Day and to commemorate the 70 sages.

This five-day trail goes through the same cities as the Sanhedrin. In the following video from the Israel Antiquities Authority Official Channel, you can see the map of the track. But I would suggest starting from the beginning to see the whole video.

Ancient Usha National Park

We parked at a big parking lot near the entrance of Kiryat Ata Forest. From there, we walked for several minutes along the scenic road.

Kiryat Ata Forest
Kiryat Ata Forest

You can also park near the Ancient Usha National Park entrance, but there are fewer parking places there.

Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

After going uphill, you will see an excavation area to your right.

Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

The excavations are still ongoing. Thus keep on to the signed paths.

Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

There are several excavation areas, and the most impressive are the ones close to road #70.

Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

You can see oil presses, wine presses, mikveh, and more. Here are several photos:

Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

And here are several views from Ancient Usha to road #70.

Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Kiryat Ata
Kiryat Ata
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park
Ancient Usha National Park

And here is another video from the Israel Antiquities Authority Official Channel where you can see some of the findings:

Shabbat Territory Stone

As you exit Ancient Usha, you will see a wooden sign pointing towards Shabbat territory stone. Here is the downhill road leading to Shabbat territory stone:

Kiryat Ata Forest
Kiryat Ata Forest

What is Shabbat territory stone?

According to Jewish law, a person is allowed to walk on Shabbat up to 2,000 Cubit (about 1.2 km) from a place of placement. This distance is called the “Shabbat area”.

Source: sign on site

Summary

If you love archeology and history, I would advise joining one of the tours or other activities at Ancient Usha. And if you are patient, you can wait several years till they dig out more.

There are many attractions in this area, like the Tzipori River, and you can explore them using the interactive map above.

Have you visited Ancient Usha? Tell us in the comment below about your experience.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at hi@israel-in-photos.com, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Lev Tsimbler

Lev from israel-in-photos.com. You can contact me at hi@israel-in-photos.com

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