IAA excavation in Giv'at Yonah
IAA excavation in Giv'at YonahSa'ar Ganor, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The foundation of a large fortress from the First Temple period was exposed in an excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) conducted at Giv'at Yonah in Ashdod.

Giv’at Yonah, according to various traditions, is identified with the burial place of the prophet Jonah, and the archaeological finds that were exposed verify the existence of life there during the First Temple period, at the time of this prophet.

Jonah is the prophet who was commanded by G-d to got the city of Nineveh and proclaim against it. When he refused to do so, G-d ordered a large fish to swallow him.

In a trial archaeological excavation the IAA carried out on in the area, remains of massive walls more than one meter wide were found that are dated to the late eighth century and early seventh century BCE.

Excavation director Dmitri Egorov of the IAA said the walls constituted the base of a large building from the First Temple period, the time when Jonah the prophet was active.  

The IAA noted that the discovery of this fortress joins other finds from an excavation that took place very close to this site in the 1960s. One excavation directed by Magen Broshi of the Department of Antiquities, which was carried out before the construction of the Ashdod lighthouse, similar wall remains were found that date to the First Temple period and Persian period.

Sa'ar Ganor, the Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said after the discovery, “Giv'at Yonah, which rises c. 50 m above sea level, is the highest hill in Ashdod, whence one can look out to sea, to Tel Mor – located in the Nahal Lachish estuary which was probably an ancient anchorage, and to Tel Ashdod. Due to its strategic location, it is not surprising to find there remains of a fortress that overlooked the region in the First Temple period”.

He added, “There are two possibilities regarding who inhabited the fortress at that time: one possibility is that it was controlled by the Assyrians who were the regional rulers in the Iron Age. Another possibility is that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time, who we know conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BCE.”

Sa'ar Ganor, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Sa'ar Ganor, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority