“’So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.’ Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Jacob said to his kinsmen, ‘Gather stones.’ So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.” (Genesis 31:44-45)
Has Israel’s own version of Stonehenge been uncovered?
After the Six-Day War in 1967, archaeologists studying an aerial map of Israel discovered a strange formation of five concentric rings of loose rock. The formation is not recognizable from the ground, appearing as random piles of rocks, but from above it is quite impressive, with an outer ring more than 152 meters (nearly 500 feet) wide. It is called Rujm el-Hiri in Arabic, meaning the “stone heap of the wild cat”, and in Hebrew as Gilgal Refaim, or Wheel of the Giants.
At its center is a mound of loose stones 20 meters (over 65 feet) in diameter and five meters (over 16 feet) tall, covering a six-meter-long (almost 20 feet) burial chamber. The entire formation is composed of over 40,000 tons of loose basalt rocks.
Estimates as to when it was built vary widely. Scholars generally place the beginning of the construction as early as 3500 BCE. In many ways, it resembles the formation of Stonehenge in England, which may have been built at the same time.
Like Stonehenge, the purpose of Gilgal Refaim is still a mystery and the focus of scholarly debate. There are opinions that it was used as a part of the burial process. Dr. Rami Arav, long-time co-director of the Bethsaida excavations northeast of the coast of the Sea of Galilee and Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, theorized that bodies were left there, exposed to the elements and vultures, until the flesh was gone
The bones would then be placed in small boxes, called ossuaries, in another permanent location. This was known to be the ancient Zoroastrian practice. No human remains were found within the tomb or anywhere on the site. In fact, very few organic artifacts were found, making dating the site difficult.
There are other opinions that it is a celestial observatory. The entranceway to the center looks out on the sunrise on the summer solstice. Notches in the walls indicate the spring and fall equinoxes. Other markings indicate star risings. This would have allowed the site to be used to predict the beginning of the rainy season, a very important survival skill.
Harry Moskoff, author of The A.R.K. Report and Remi Award Winning Film Producer, is an internationally acclaimed expert on the Ark of the Covenant and other hidden Temple artifacts. When asked by Breaking Israel News about Gilgal Refaim and a possible Biblical connection to the site known as the “pile of stones” referred to in the Bible (Genesis 31:51) by Laban as Jegar-sahadutha and by Jacob as Galeed, Moskoff agreed that there was value in the connection.
Both names have the same meaning, witness pile, however Galeed is Hebrew and Jegar-sahadutha is Aramaic. The “pile” served as a border between Laban and Jacob and as a physical symbol of the covenant between them. As described in the Bible, it had a pillar in the center and was used as an altar, similar to the description of Gilgal Refaim.
The idea intrigued Moskoff, and he accepted that it might be a possibility.
“We know that the pile of stones was still around during the times of King David, as he felt bound by the agreement in the Bible. It may only exist today because the tzaddik (righteous) Jacob, our forefather, erected it,” he told Breaking Israel News, adding a scholarly disclaimer: “Even though this is the Torah perspective, it is still a theory.”