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 Kiryat Arbiya and the four species scroll

Kiryat Arbiya

Kiryat Arbiya according to archeologist Yigael Yadin's identification is the Arab village of Arub in the region of Gush Etzion on the road between Bethlehem and Hebron. This place was located between Ein Guedi and Beitar that is reputed to have been Bar Kochba's main camp.  This name appears in the Four Species Scroll, and is unfamiliar from other sources.  Its literal meaning is the 'the city of the Arabs' or what appears to be more plausible given the context of the epistle – the 'Town of the Aravot (willow leaves)' . An allusion to this name is possibly contained in the legend of Midrash Eicha I:15, and in the Jerusalem Talmud (Berakhot I:5a)

According to this legend a Jew plowed his field and his cow bellowed. An Arab passed by the spot and told him to let the ox and his flask loose, because the temple had been destroyed.  After the cow bellowed a second time, he told him to tether his cow and his flask, because at that moment the Messiah King had been born.  When the plowman inquired after the Messiah's name and his birthplace the Arab responded that his name was Menahem ben Hezekiah, and that he was born in Birat Malka in Judea and Bethlehem ( according to the version into Jerusalem Talmud) or in 'Birat Araba' as per Midrash Eicha.

The four species scroll

The scroll is one of the scrolls sent by Bar Kochba to a person named Yehuda Bar Menashe who resided in Kiryat Arbiya.

The scroll contains an order from Bar Kochba to supply him with the four species – lulavim (palm branches), etrogim (citrons), hadassim (myrtle branches) and aravot (willows) that he required for the upcoming holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The scroll was written at the height of the stubborn fighting against the Romans, apparently towards the end of the rebellion, and Bar Kochba was making a major effort to obtain the four species.  This epistle attests to the strict religious observance of Bar Kochba’s men.  The epistle was apparently written upon the approach of the Sukkot holidays 134 C.E., for according to what appears in the Mishna (Taanit, IV, 6) Beitar was destroyed on the ninth of Av, and by this account Bar Kochba was no longer alive in the year 135.

 

The scroll was written in Aramaic and this is its translation:

Line a: Shimon to Yehuda son of Menashe to Kiryat Arbiya. I sent you two donkeys so you can send

Line b:   with them two people with Yehonatan son of Baaya and with Misbala so they may load

Line c: and send to your camp lulavim and etrogim.  And you send others that you have

Line d: and they should bring you hadassim and aravot and you make them fit (take tithes from them) and send them on to the camp because

Line e: the Army is numerous.  Be well

 

Caves were discovered near the village of Arub that contained archaeological findings from the Bar Kochba period, including coins.  Near the village are a number of springs, and therefore aravot and hadassim were plentiful.

(The picture on the explanations are taken from Yigael Yadin’s book ‘Bar Kochba’ published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Jerusalem, in conjunction with Maariv Publishing House)
    
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