The Mountain of Judah
and the Shephelah

66. Modeim, today Moditha, the place of origin of the Maccabeans - (al-Midiyah)

Village in the toparchy of Lydda, the home town of Mattathias the Hasmonean and of his descendants; here the Hasmonean revolt broke out (I Macc. 2:1, 15, 23). Although the rebels were soon forced to evacuate the village, they were able to bury their dead there (I Macc. 2:70; 9:19; 13:25-30). Simeon the Hasmonean built a splendid mausoleum, which was adorned with seven pyramids and high columns with sculptures of ships visible from the sea. In the time of Jonathan, Modi'in passed into Jewish possession with the rest of the toparchy of Lydda. There Judah defeated Antiochus V (II Macc. 13:14ff.) and John and Judah, the sons of Simeon, camped before the battle of Kidron (I Macc. 16:4). In the Mishnah, it is described as a town on the border of Judah (Pes. 9:2; Hag. 3:5). It was the home town of R. Eleazar of Modi'in, a close relative of Bar Kokhba and perhaps identical with Eleazar the high priest, who appears on coins of the Second Jewish War. In the Onomasticon of Eusebius and on the Madaba Map it is located east of Lydda; it is now identified with the village of al-Midya, 7 1/2 mi. (12 km.) east of Lydda. The ancient site is located at Ras al-Midya, north of the village, where pottery from the Iron Age and later periods has been found. The tombs of the Maccabees have been tentatively located at Sheikh al-Gharbawi, across the valley of Modi'in. Annually at Hanukkah, a torch is solemnly lit at the tombs and raced to Jerusalem.

Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Modi'in"

Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 61)
The identification of er-Ras near the present village of Midye with historical Modiin is undisputed. The text 'whence came the Maccabees' is taken from On. 132,16 with a slight change (ek tautes for othen). Eusebius adds that their tombs (possibly at Sheikh el Gharbawi across the wadi) were still being shown in his time. The Aramaic form of the contemporary name Moditha corresponds to the Hebrew Modiith found in the Mishna (Hagiga iii, 5) and has been added by the author of the map.

Israel Roll (in The Madaba Map Centenary, 112)
Several sites depicted on the mosaic map of Madaba indicate that its makers used data drawn from road-maps and itineraria. Between Jerusalem and Jaffa, a series of places known to be located along the two connecting highways between them, are shown on that map. These are: Bethoron, Kaperouta, Modeim, Adita and Lydda/Diospolis, which bordered, in that sequence, the northern highway - known as the Bethoron road. Also are mentioned Nicopolis, Enataba and Betoannaba, that belonged to the parallel southern road, via Emmaus. The very mentioning of two mile-stations, the fourth (to tetarton), and the ninth (to ennaton), clearly indicate a road-map origin. Those two sites could be identified with two traditional road-stations of the southern highway which possessed plenty of water, that is, Colonia (today Motza) located at the distance of four miles from Jerusalem, and Kiriat Jearim (today Abu Ghosh) - at nine miles from it.
(See also the complete article)

Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 117)
The map also differs from Eusebius in giving the form Adiathim he nun Aditha instead of Adiaqthaim, Adithaim in Jerome, now Aditha, and Modeeim he nun Moditha, with the Aramaic form of the name, Modiith, found in the Mishna, but unknown to Eusebius. (See also the complete article)

Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem - in the press)


In 1866 the Franciscan Father Emmanuel Forner suggested that Modiin, the home of the Maccabees, should not be placed at Soba, the Roman castle located along the Jerusalem-Jaffa road, as had been customary for many centuries, but in the village of Midye (cf. Clermont-Ganneau, ARP II, 359-360). The reasons of this proposal were, first, that such an identification corresponded well with the data of Eusebius' Onomasticon, which places Modiin in the vicinity of Lydda, and second, the existence of numerous tombs there. The identification was willingly adopted by scholars who hastened in the search of the tombs of the Maccabees. After not a few disputes on paper, today the view has prevailed that places these tombs on a hill called er-Ras; and Father Forner's identification has long become canonical. In fact, since 1948 the Jews introduced the custom of lighting torches on the festival of Hanukkah in front of the Arab village of Midye-Modiin, and bringing the fire to the rest of Israel. From 1948 to 1967 the border passed nearby. Christian remains are varied.
The site called Midye includes two hills to the east and two south of a little valley. To the east lie the Arab village and the hill called er-Ras where sherds from the Iron Age and later period have been discovered, as well as Hellenistic tombs. To the west are the sites of el-Gherbawy, el-Hammam, Kh. el-Lauz, and Kabur el-Yahud.
In 1866 Brother Liévin learned there was a church at el-Midye, but it had been destroyed; and Clermont-Ganneau was told that it had been destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha and the stones had been carted off to Lydda at the house of a certain B'ro, and to Ramleh at the house of one Abu Kar. The scholar traced the stones in Lydda, observed that they were dressed on one side and rough-hewn on the back, but did not succeed in finding the inscriptions he had hoped for. He did see, however, a fragment of a column embedded on the doorway of a mosque. It bore three circles, which recall the ancient custom of representing God in this fashion. Clermont-Ganneau also saw a fragment of a white marble chancel screen decorated with a cross in a wreath. These are the only elements of the destroyed church that could be studied (ARP II, 377, 471-472, 476-477)
El-Gherbawy. The chief item on the hill is the mausoleum built of beautiful ashlars that contains five aligned chambers. Since it was believed to be the family tomb of the Maccabees, the ruin was partially excavated by Guérin and then by Clermont-Ganneau (ARP II, 360-374). The excavators had the surprise of finding in front of the last chamber on the north side a mosaic pavement, and within a mosaic with a cross. The attribution of the tomb to the Hellenistic period thus disappeared; and there was no reason to suppose that the mosaic could have been a Christian embellishment for the purpose of worship, because the Maccabee fighters, unlike the martyrs, were not venerated by the Christians. A capital found in the third room on the west side, with very simple volutes, evidently utilized in the construction, confirms the late date of the work.

Tomb-stone with crosses at Kabur al-Yahud

Kabur el-Yahud. According to information gathered by the authors of the SWP (II, 341-343) this name would have been used by the Franks. Whatever the case, the name indicates a group of tombs of two types: a trough blocked by a massive stone, and a chamber with arcosolia. The authors did not observe any Christian characteristics; however, judging by the form, they dated them to the time of the Christian emperors. On a visit on May 16, 1974, we could see near a wine-press a sturdy lid (205 x 110 x 80 cm), rather rough, which bore a two-horned cross 32 cm high.
The place is represented on the mosaic of Madaba with the conventional vignette representing dwellings and the label: "Modiin now Moditha, whence the Maccabees were."

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Modiin", 188.

Map Section 6 Place Sources

logo logo

Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:39:54
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000