The name of the area called Ma’ale Adumim (Red Heights) stems from the red rock lining the ascent from the Dead Sea.
The 16 mile-long road between Jerusalem and Jericho has been important throughout history, used by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, particularly those coming from the Galilee via the Jordan Valley and Jericho, in the footsteps of Jesus and John the Baptist.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, this route remained popular with pilgrims coming to the Jordan River to be baptized. Today the area is named after the Good Samaritan Inn mentioned in the New Testament.
Historical summary of the area:
In the biblical era, the site was the border point between the territories of the Tribe of Judah and the Tribe of Benjamin. At the end of the Roman era (end of the 3rd century), Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea mentions Ma’ale Adumim in “The Omasticon,” calling it “a village in ruins on the way down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” He mentions a Roman military installation there.
At the beginning of the Byzantine era (4th century), Hieronymus (St. Jerome) recalls the link between the name of the place and robbers, and points out that Jesus cited it in a parable. Like Eusebius, Hieronymus also mentions a military fort, and in “Vita Pauli monachi,” he tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan that took place in the area.
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37): Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So, likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a traveling Samaritan came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ "
The parable became the Christian symbol of fraternity, neighborliness and friendship.
Archeological findings came from the site that date back to the days of the 2nd Temple (1st century A.D., at the time of Jesus), and many findings from the Byzantine era, such as water cisterns, columns, etc.
In the 6th century, a big square-shaped monastery was built on the site with a cistern in its center. Inside the now reconstructed monastery compound was a church and residential quarters.
The church floor was made of mosaic, most of which was taken away bit by bit by pilgrims as a keepsake. The spectacular mosaic floor that you see today is a reconstruction made up of 1.7 million pieces! Outside the monastery complex, there was a hostel with a chapel, bedrooms and stables, which catered to the pilgrims.
The Crusader period was one of unprecedented construction in this area, such as the fortress built by the Templars in the 12th century: the red fortress, Castrum Rouge.
Other than the fortress, in the Mamluk period, there was also a roadside khan (inn) and water holes cut into the rock in order to catch floodwaters for the pilgrims.
During the Ottoman period (16th to 19th centuries), the Turks built a rectangular building and a lookout post next to the Mamluk khan, which were renovated and used for the same purpose by the British in the 20th century. Nowadays, the building is a museum.
Cave dwellings dating back to the time of the 2nd Temple were discovered in the area of the museum. The caves were used by men who guarded the roads or servants from the palace discovered across the road, which Herod used on his way to and from Jericho.
There is speculation that the palace may have been used as an inn when the 2nd Temple was destroyed and that this is the inn mentioned in the parable.
The museum, which is the only mosaic museum in the country and one of only three in the world, displays artifacts unearthed in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. One set of mosaics is displayed outdoors, while the other is displayed indoors. Among the outdoors mosaics you can see the biggest and most impressive in Israel. The 6th century mosaic from a synagogue in Gaza is particularly beautiful.
Inside the museum
• The museum is divided up into 6 sections and includes:
• One section dedicated to synagogues, which includes inscribed mosaics from Jewish synagogues in Gaza, Jericho and Na’aran.
• One section dedicated to Samaritan synagogues with inscriptions from the 10 Commandments from Mount Gerizim.
• Spectacular mosaics from the Khirbet Samara Samaritan synagogue (see picture).
• Mosaics from the Tel Shilo church
• One section dedicated to churches
• Findings from the Martyrius Monastery, the Church at Khirbet Beit Sila and Mount Hebron