Israel the History

Hirbet Tura

Hirvat Tura is located west of lerusalem on an isolated cone-shaped hill above Nahal Soreq, apparently belonging to a royal fortress from the Hasmonean period.

The fortress was built of large ashlar stones, was protected by walls, and the only possible approach was blocked by a ditch cut in the rock. Water was supplied from more than six underground reservoirs with plastered walls. Typologically, this fortress with its typical water system resembles the ludean Desert fortresses of the Second Temple period and a group of fortresses and fortified sites dating from this period, recently explored by H. Eshel and D. Amit in the Judean and Benjamin hill country.

The Arabic names of the site - Khirbet Sammunieh and Khirbet Tantura - apparently preserve the ancient name of the fortress: Tur Shimon, or the Mountain of Shimon. Presumably, the fortress was built by and named after Simeon (Shimon), the son of Mattathias the Hasmonean ruler, renowned for his building and fortification projects.

Alternatively, the fortress may have been built by his son, lohn Hyrcanus, in memory of his father. The practice of naming fortresses or impressive structures after rulers, their family members, or their friends was customary in the Hellenistic and Roman world. Most of the desert fortresses were named for members of the Hasmonean family (e.g., Alexandrion and Horqanya) or the Herodian family (Herodium, Cypros, and the towers of Phasael and Mariamne in lerusalem).

Tur Shimon is one of the settlements mentioned in a series of traditions in the Palestinian Talmud (Ta'anit 4:69a) and in its parallel in Lamentations Rabbah (2:4). The account describes the devastation of Judea following the First or Second Jewish Revolt against Rome. The place mentioned in these traditions might be identified with the former Hasmonean fortress that in the late Second Temple period and during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt became a fortified lewish settlement.