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The Nature and National Parks Protection Authority yesterday opened "Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan in the north, for visits by the public.

The ancient structure from the Canaanite period of the Bronze Age is made of mud and is thought to have been built around 1750 B.C.E. The authority named the archaeological site for Abraham, the first patriarch of the Jewish people, indicating that it dates from the period of Abraham.

The gate was uncovered in 1979 but more recently underwent restoration. It is composed of three arches and constructed of sun-dried mud brick on a foundation of large basalt stones. The gate, which in ancient times stood seven meters tall, has been restored to its original height. It features two towers and a horizontal structure linking them below the arches, the oldest arches ever found in the Land of Israel.

Archaeologists specializing in the Bronze Age suggest caution in identifying the structure. Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv University's archaeology department commented that he "doesn't know any academic archaeologist who uses the Bible as a guide to describing remains from such an early period. There may be a connection with Abraham in the metaphoric sense, but not more than that. Today the era of the patriarchs is not taught as an archaeological period. There are even differences of opinion regarding the period of King David and King Solomon, which is already 700 years later."

Oldest arch

Greenberg said that in any event, the gate is one of the most impressive finds of its time. He noted that not only is it the oldest arch in the country, but it also reflects a revival of urban life in the Land of Israel, a product of the influence of city life in Syria at the time.

Ze'ev Margalit, who is responsible for archaeological preservation at the parks authority, indicated that "the gate is almost 4,000 years old and is made of mud brick. The Bible recounts that the people of Dan took Abraham's nephew Lot prisoner, and Abraham came to Dan to rescue him, but it is hard to confirm whether or not Abraham passed through the gate."

Margalit noted that in recent years Christian pilgrims have come to the site, and have reacted with great excitement in coming face to face with Abraham's gate.