Hirbat Midras (also known as Horbot Midras, Khirbet Midras, or Hurvat Midras — “Midras” can also be spelled as “Madras”) was a significant population center in Second Temple times and many scholars believe that it is also the site of the home and grave of the Prophet Zechariah. It is now located within the boundaries of the Adullam Grove Nature Reserve in central Israel, which is also managed by the Israel Natures and National Parks Protection Authority.
Burial caves, a columbarium (dovecot), caves and hiding tunnels during the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE) and a burial pyramid were among those discovered at Hirbat Midras.
In 2013, archaeologists excavated a number of pyramid-topped burial sites in Hirbat Midras as they were trying to examine understand the lifestyle of its residents. It seems that the ancient Judeans built pyramids over the tombs of their deceased family members or relatives as a way to honor them.
In the book of of 1 Maccabees, Simon Maccabee is said to have erected monuments on top of the tombs of his father, mother, and brothers during the time of the Bar Kochba revolt.
In this case, the columbarium at Hirbat Midras is not the columbarium that most of us think of today — a building or structure to house the urns of cremated remains.
Instead, the columbarium cave at Hirbat Midras means a housing structure for doves and pigeons. It is also called a “dovecote”. This cave is believed to be built during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and was used to raise the birds for their meat and eggs, fertilizer, and other uses.
Some exceptionally well preserved mosaics of a Byzantine-era church were uncovered in early 2011. The mosaics are a combination of intricate geometric designs as well as designs depicting flora, fauna, birds, fish, and fruit. They are now due to be covered until site development can be completed. Here are some pictures that we managed to take before they were again covered.
More detailed coverage and a short video can be found in our special In Israel blog.