Graffiti By an Eretz Yisrael Ammora?
Could this be the handiwork of the EY Ammora, Rabi Hiyya Bar Abba?
אנא חייא "I am Hiyya".
(Scholars believe that the rest of the graffiti was left by a different individual)
With the Synagogue in Dura Europos now in the hands of ISIS a closer look at an often overlooked treasure trove of Jewish history is warranted.
Note 1: The traditional dating for the completion of the construction of the Synagogue at Dura Europos is circa 244 CE. Rav Hiyya's death is said to have taken place at 230 CE (give or take. In my case I'd rather give some..).
Note 2. The reason why I've chosen this Rav Hiyya is because he is known to have traveled from his hometown in Tiberias to various communities-both in EY and in the Diaspora including Syria (see JT Peah, 8, 6). He is also said to have appointed archons (Ibid). During his travels in the Diaspora he was active in strengthening Jewish identity and raising money for the poor (including for himself). The Jerusalem Talmud (Hagiga 1, 8) relates that he received a personal letter of approbation, from the Nassi (not dissimilar to what is shown today by 'meshulakhim' from Israel, who knock on your door right at that moment when you're about to sit down and enjoy dinner after an exhausting day at work, but I digress..) attesting to his great personal worth. The contents of the letter was: הרי שלחנו אליכם אדם גדול.
Perhaps on a stop over at Dura Europos, Rabi Hiyya decided to etch his great name in stone...
Be it as it may, this blog makes for some fascinating reading: