The Meidva Mosaic Map, a floor mosaic, is more notable for what it does not show than for what it shows. It was discovered in an early Byzantine place of worship at Meidva. The mosaic was rediscovered in the late 1800s during the construction of a new Greek Orthodox structure on the site of its ancient predecessor. Meidva, an ancient Biblical city in what today is Jordan, has 60,000 residents and is about 20 minutes from Amman. Ten minutes to the west of Meidva is what is claimed to be Har Nevo, from where Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu a view of all of Eretz Yisrael.
Meidva is about nine kilometers south of the scriptural Cheshbon. In Bamidbar (21:30) we are told of Meidva’s capture by Am Yisrael from Sichon, king of the Emorites. It was part of the nachalah, inheritance, of the tribe of Reuven (Yehoshua 13:9). Divrei Hayamim I (ch. 19) describes a war that Dovid Hamelech and his generals fought there.
The Meidva Mosaic Map is an index map of the Holy Land, dating from the 6th century C.E. It is preserved in the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica and contains a least two million pieces of colored tesserae (stone-tiles). (As amazing as it sounds today, parts of the map which had survived until its excavation were destroyed in the Greek Orthodox construction. Prof. Avi Yona, who devoted much time to studying the map, estimated that it would have been made of more than 3,000,000 mosaic tiles, and that would translate into three working years! Therefore we no idea of it's original size, it is estimated at about 140 sq. m. [1500 sq. feet])
The map depicts hills and valleys, and villages and towns in Eretz Yisrael. A combination of folding-perception and aerial views show Lebanon in the north all the way to the Nile Delta in the south, and depicts the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert (with a gazelle shown in the desert of Moav). Among other features, it depicts the Dead Sea with a boat,( it is representing extraction of salt or minerals from the Dead Sea shown in a white pile between two people in the boat), a palm-ringed Jericho, Bethlehem and other biblical sites of significance to Christians. About 150 towns and villages, all of them labeled in Greek, are seen.
The mosaic contains the earliest existing illustration of Byzantine Jerusalem. As mentioned, the Meidva map is more notable for what it does not show than for what it shows. What was of importance to Christianity was blown up in size, way out of the correct proportions. What they wanted reduced to nothing and forgotten was simply left out. For instance, Jerusalem (labeled the “Holy City”) was considered of prime significance. They therefore placed it in the center of the map, not in its accurate position, and made it the largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction. In Jerusalem itself, Har Habayis is omitted altogether. There is not one indication of Jews or a Jewish presence. The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: Damascus Gate, Lions Gate, the Golden Gate, different churches, the Tower of David, and the main Cardo. It is obvious that they wanted to sever the Jewish connection to our Land and to obliterate and eliminate us completely.
An enlarged replica of the Jerusalem shown in the Meidva Mosaic Map is found in the main Cardo of the Jewish Quarter of the Yerushalayim’s Old City. (The same facsimile is featured at Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate.)
As we stand and look at this map, we can contemplate the miracle of the survival of Am Yisrael, a lone sheep among 70 wolves ready to devour it at any given moment. Before our very eyes is tangible evidence of the plans the nations have for our people. Our long history records many bloody horrors our people have endured and survived. Yet despite all this, we are here and flourishing. We can be certain that no matter what may befall us as individuals, the Jews as a people will — with the help of Hashem —outlive their cruel foes and emerge triumphant in the end.
(We thank Rav David Magence licensed tour-guide for his additions to this article.)
Published in "Hamodia".