(PHOTO: Visitors at Hilkia's Palace. Credit: Zev Rothkoff)
A group toured Armon Hilkia (Hilkia's Palace) in late March, 2017 in a special trip organized by Midreshet Hebron. The site is one of many archaeological sites of Jewish origin in the Hebron Hills Region.
Armon Hilkiah (also spelled Chilkiah or Hilkiya) is a Second Temple era archaeological site located in the Southern Hebron Hills.
In 1969, archaeologist Emmanuel Damati excavated the site a bathhouse, large cisterns, and other finds dating back to Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Money dated 68 CE was found on the site as well. Some of the architecture matches Hasmonean and Herodian palaces found in Jericho.
In his "The Palace of Hilkiya," Qadmoniot 15:4 (60), 1982, pp. 117–12 he states:
"In the Hebron area a splendid palace, Herodian in plan and ornament, has been uncovered. The palace is a rectangular building, having a peristyle court (8x 10m.) with an open triclinium in its centre, Thick walls surround the whole structure. The palace contains rooms in rows around the court. Some of these rooms have barrel vaults and they are decorated with stucco. The gate to the palace was uncovered in the south. A bath house was found in the northern wing. In the west a tower measuring 3 x13m. was constructed.
Many architectural fragments were found during the excavations: Nabatean sapitals, column bases and drums, some of which bore masons' marks and Hebrew letters.
The palace was named Hilkiya after a Greek inscription on a limestone slab which mentions Hilkiya, son of Simon."
Archaeologists also theorize that the site was also a hiding place for the soldiers of Shimon Bar Kochba, on the run from the Roman invaders.
The site was previously referenced in the 1881 book Survey of Western Palestine, published by the British-based Palestine Exploration Fund. It refers to the site as "Khurbet el Murak and describing the find as "caves and two large foundations."
The word Khurbet is often written in English as Khirbet and means "ruins" in Hebrew. References to Khirbet el Murak, Khirbet el Muraq, and Hurvat Murak can be found in several books on the architecture of King Herod's Israel.
Midreshet Hebron, is a college located in Kiryat Arba specializing in field work, tour guide training and Land of Israel studies. It often leads tours of the area and lecture about the rich history of the Hebron Hills region.
Due to the currently political atmosphere, trips to Hilkiah's Place are rare. The remote site is today located near the PA enclave of al-Muwarraq. The small enclave is incorporated with three others officially called Al-Kum - Al-Muwarraq - Beit Maqdum - Humsa. It is located close to the city of Dura within the Hebron region.
* "Free access to archaeological sites, open to the public without discrimination." - Oslo II Accords, ARTICLE 2:7
* Survey of Western Palestine - Archive.org
* al-Kum - Wikipedia entry