Ascalon, Gaza, Negev and Sinai
111. Orda - (Kh. 'Irq)
This form of the name occurs only in the Madaba map. A. Alt has proposed to identify Orda with Khirbet 'Irq and has assumed that it was the ecclesiastical and civil centre of Saltus Gerariticus. B. Maisler-Mazar on the other hand suggested recently that Orda of Madaba map is identical with the Iarden of Josephus (War III,51) which was the southernmost point of Judaea, and that both should be situated at or near Tell Jemme where considerable Byzantine remains were found near-by. The position of Orda on the map, south-east of Bethagidea and Seana, does not agree very well with Tell Jemme, which is to the south-west of the latter, but the map is not always very exact in its orientation.
Avi-Yonah, The Madaba Mosaic Map, 73
Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press)
Kh. 'Irq, Gerar, Arda/Orda, Kh. el-Far, Birsama, H. Beer Shema'
A. Alt, following the Madaba Map, maintains that Gerar is to be located at Kh. 'Irq, 6 kilometers east of Gaza. There are Byzantine remains in this site (JPOS 12 , p. 139). Bishop Marcian of Ardon attended the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Two bishops went to Jerusalem for the two sixth-century councils.
Nearby Kh. el-Far is identified with Birsama, that was the military center of the Saltus Gerariticus (the imperial estate of Gerar) just as Orda was its religious centre. At el-Far extensive elements of the Byzantine village (wells, cisterns, etc.) are still preserved, albeit in a dilapidated state (Abel, Géographie, p. 443). Gerar, however, is identified by others with Umm Jerar which would would preserve the ancient name. According to Y. Aharoni (IEJ 6 , p. 28), Kh. 'Irq-Orda would be the episcopal city which succeeded ancient Gerar, this would be located at Kh. Abu Hureira on the northern side of Wadi Jerar-Wadi Shari'ah (the latter name derives from the tell east of Kh. Abu Hureira). Orda on the other hand is south of the wadi after the crossroads (see Aharoni's map, ibid., p. 29).
Near Wadi Shari'ah, the monk Silvanus had built his monastery in the river bed (Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica VI, 32). He was a Palestinian who had visited Egypt and Sinai but later had returned to his homeland. In 415 the monastery was in the charge of Zacharias his successor (PO 8, pp. 100, 177).
Addition by Leah Di Segni (Jerusalem):
A church with a splendid mosaic pavement and Greek inscriptions has been recently discovered at H. Beer Shema'. The pavement has the well-known motif of the vine tendrils issuing from an amphora and forming populated scrolls: the fifty-five medallions contain figures of objects. animals and humans. Amomg those is an unprecedented representation of a sitting woman nursing a baby (D. Gazit & Y. Lender, in Ancient Churches Revealed, pp.273-76).
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Birsama", 91; "Orda", 198; "Saltus Gerariticus", 220.
Map Section 9 Place Sources