Jish (Arabic: الجش; Hebrew: גִ'שׁ, גּוּשׁ חָלָב, Gush Halav) has both an ancient and modern history. Remnants of an a
roman-era village with a synagogue have been uncovered. In modern times, it is an Arab Christian town located on
the northeastern slopes of Mt. Meron, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) north of Safed in Israel's North District.
Classical sources written in Greek, including the Wars of the Jews by Josephus, call the village Gischala.
Jish was largely depopulated of its Muslim inhabitants during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, but those expelled from
the nearby Arab Christian villages of Iqrit and Kafr Bir'im in the years following took up residence in Jish,
forming the majority of Jish's population today.
According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Jish had a population of 2,600 inhabitants in 2005. The
majority of the population belong to the Maronite Church and Greek Catholics, with a significant Muslim minority.
Settlement in Jish dates back 3,000 years. The village is mentioned in the Mishnah as Gush Halav, a city
"surrounded by walls since the time of Joshua Ben Nun". The Hebrew name, lit. "block of milk" is thought to refer
to the chalky white limestone characteristic of the village's geological structure, or perhaps the fertility of
its soil. Both Josephus and later Jewish sources from the Roman-Byzantine period mention the fine
olive oil the village was known for.
After the fall of Gamla, Gush Halav was the last Jewish stronghold in the Galilee and Golan region during the
First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE). Gischala was the home of Yohanan of Gush Halav (יוחנן מגוש חלב),
known in English as John of Gischala, a key figure in the Jewish revolt in the Galilee and later Jerusalem.
In the Middle Ages, Gush Halav was famed among Jews for its graves of rabbis and ruins of ancient synagogues.
During the Islamic rule of the Levant, the town adopted its modern name of Jish. In the 17th century, the town was
inhabited by Druze, who left at the end of the century. In the early 18th century, Maronites, Greek Catholics and
Muslims began settling in the town. The Galilee earthquake of 1837 caused widespread damage and over 200 deaths.
Eighteen archaeological sites have been excavated to date in Jish and the nearby vicinity. Archaeologists have
excavated a synagogue in use from the 3rd to 6th centuries CE. Evidence was found of earthquakes in 306 CE and of
the Galilee earthquake of 363 CE. A strong earthquake in 551 CE may have led to the site's abandonment. A carved
Aramaic inscription on one of the columns of the synagogue, believed to date from the middle of the 3rd century or
early 4th century CE, reads: "Yosei son of Nahum built this. A blessing be upon him." Coins indicate that Jish had
strong commercial ties with the nearby city of Tyre. On Jish's western slope, a mausoleum was excavated, with
stone sarcophagi similar to those seen at the large Jewish catacomb at Beit She'arim. The inner part of the
mausoleum contained ten hewn loculi, burial niches known in Hebrew as kokhim. In the mausoleum, archaeologists
found several skeletons, oil lamps and a glass bottle dating to the fourth century CE. A network of secret caves
and passageways in Jish, some of them dug under private homes, is strikingly similar to hideaways in the Judean
lowlands used during the Bar Kokhba revolt...