The Mountain of Judah
and the Shephelah
In the Madaba Map two different Rama occur: one is situated north of Jerusalem (see no. 53), and one south of it, near the town of Betlehem. Others places with the same name are known to have exixted, and to exist nowadays, in the center as well as in the north of the country, probably because of the common meaning of the word in Hebrew (Ramah, "height"). To these, must be added those placenames starting with Ramath ("height of...") and Arimatea (no. 54) (correspondig to Ramathaim, "the two heights"). The problem is that stories and traditions, originally related to one Rama, tend sometimes to wander to another one. Such is the case of the birth town of prophet Samuel (1 Sam 1:1) and of the resting place of Jacobs' wife, Rachel (Jer 40:1; Mt 2:18).
73. Rama. A voice was heard in Rama
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 59)
The tomb of Rachel was originally situated near Rama (ar-Ram, nr. 49) north of Jerusalem. The name Ephrat, mentioned in Gen. 35:19 was also the name of king David's family (Micah 5: 1). This caused its transfer to the vicinity of Bethlehem which was known as David's birthplace. This transfer occured before the New Testament was written. Consequently, a village called Rama was supposed to exist near Bethlehem, and this assumption was supported by the very existence of a small Roman-Byzantine village at modern Ramat Rahel. Around 450 a church was built there, the so-called 'church of Kathisma' recalling Maria's resting on her way to Bethlehem. Instead of the church the non-existant village of Rama is represented on the Madaba map.
Editors' note: The widening of the Jerusalem-Bethlehem road in 1992 has brought about the discovery of the true location of the Kathisma church, a few hundreds meters north of the monastery of Mar Elias, in the very place where a tradition located the well called Bir Kadismu. A very large octagonal church with several important annexes was discovered. It has two different levels of mosaic pavement. In the center of the octagon, a portion of natural rock crops out on the surface and was left uncovered by the mosaic floor. It was probably the venerated rock on which Mary had reposed. The excavation has recently been completed and the discovery has not yet been published.
In any case, the Madaba map puts clearly Rama somewhere west of Betlehem and not certainly on the road which comes from Jerusalem, where the modern Ramat Rahel and the Kathisma church are.
Map Section 6 Place Sources