AI or HA-AI (עַי, הָעָי; in the Samaritan version of Gen. 12:15 called Ayna; in Jos., Ant. 5:35 – Naian), place in Ereẓ Israel. It is mentioned together with Beth-El as near the site where Abraham pitched his tent (Gen. 12:8; 13:3). In Joshua 7:2, it is located beside Beth-Aven, east of Beth-El. Ai was the second Canaanite city which Joshua attacked (Josh. 7–8). After the first attempt to capture the city had miscarried because of the sin of achan , the king of Ai and his army were defeated in an ambush and the city was left in ruins (see also josh . 12:9). Although the old site of Ai remained abandoned, an Israelite city with a similar name arose nearby. Isaiah mentioned Aiath (עַיָּת – Isa. 10:28) as the first of the cities occupied by the Assyrians in their march on Jerusalem, before Michmas and Geba. In the post-Exilic period, returnees from Ai are mentioned together with people from Beth-El (Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32) and Aijah (עַיָּה) appears as a city of Benjamin (Neh. 11:31). Most scholars identify the ancient city with et-Tell near Deir Dibwan, c. 1 mi. (2 km.) southwest of Beth-El. Excavations at the site carried out in 1933–35 by Judith Marquet-Krause were renewed in 1964 by J.A. Callaway. The city was found to have been inhabited in the Early Bronze Age from c. 3000 B.C.E. Several massive stone walls were discovered as well as a sanctuary containing sacrificial objects and a palace with a large hall, the roof of which was supported by wooden pillars on stone bases. The city was destroyed not later than in the 24th century B.C.E. and remained in ruins until the 13th or 12th century B.C.E. when a small short-lived Israelite village was established there. This discovery indicates that in the time of Joshua, the site was a waste (also implied by the name Ai, literally, "ruin"). Scholars explain the discrepancy in various ways. Some consider the narrative of the conquest of Ai contained in the book of Joshua an etiological story that developed in order to explain the ancient ruins of the city and its fortifications. Others assume that the story of Ai was confused with that of nearby Beth-El which evidently was captured during the 13th century. Others dispute the identification without, however, being able to propose another suitable site. Khirbet Ḥaiyan,   c. 1 mi. (2 km.) south of et-Tell, has been suggested as the site of the later city; the only pottery found there, however, dates from the Roman and later periods. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Marquet-Krause, Les fouilles de'Ay (et-Tell) (1949); Vincent, in: RB, 46 (1937), 231 ff.; Albright, in: AASOR, 4 (1924), 141–9; idem, in: BASOR, 74 (1939), 15 ff.; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 239–40; Aharoni, Land index; U. Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 2 (1964), 331–2; M. Noth, in: PJB, 31 (1935), 7–29; J.M. Grintz, in: Sinai, 21 (1947), 219 ff.; J.A. Callaway, in: BASOR, 178 (1965), 13–40; J.A. Callaway and H.B. Nicol, ibid., 183 (1966), 12–19. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Ben-Tor (ed.), The Archaeology of Ancient Israel (1992), index. (Michael Avi-Yonah)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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