Postcard from Israel – Bet She’an


Although only about a tenth of the archaeological site of Bet She’an has been excavated, it has to be one of the most fascinating places to visit in Israel. First settled in the Chalcolithic period in the fifth millennium BCE, it became the seat of Egyptian rule in the late Canaanite period and the governor’s residence can be seen at the top of the Tel, which has some twenty settlement strata including a walled Canaanite city and an Israelite fortress. 

During the Hellenistic period, the city of Nysa-Scythopolis was founded – falling to the Hasmoneans in 107 BCE. After the Roman conquest, the city became one of the ten cities of the Decapolis and magnificent public buildings were constructed, including several bath-houses and a spectacular 7,000 seat second century theatre. At its height, some 30 to 40 thousand people lived in the city, but in 749 CE it was destroyed in the massive earthquake which hit the area. 

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7 comments on “Postcard from Israel – Bet She’an

  1. Excellent photos. Bet She’an is also mentioned in the Bible several times. Perhaps most memorably in Samuel 1, chapter 31, as the place where the Philistine hung the bodies of King Saul and his sons, after they defeated them on mount Gilboa. The future king, David, led a bold commando operation in the dead of night to salvage the bodies and bring them to honorable burial.
    Regarding the photos, Hadar – could you provide some context? I can reasonably identify the following:
    1. A copy of an Egyptian stele by Pharaoh Sethi I,13th century BCE,
    2. The Lion and Dog stele, also of Egyptian origin
    3. ?
    4. A view of the Roman city from the Tel (artificial hill)
    5, 6 & 8 – Roman streets.
    7. Mosaic of Tyche, the goddess of the city in Roman times
    9. The Roman bath – specifically the heating system that was under the bath’s floor.
    10. Presumably a Byzantine (or a Crusader’s?) church?
    11 & 12 the Roman theater.
    More reading:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beit_She%27an

    • Number 2 is, I believe, Canaanite. Number 3 is the walls of an Israelite fortress (with the floodlights of the Bet She’an football stadium and the mall in the background!). Number 10 is, I think, Byzantine. I’m not sure it’s a church because it is located within one of the public baths complexes.

  2. Just to bring down the tone – am I the only one who, since watching “Stargate SG1″, is now incapable of seeing any Ancient Egyptian artifact without immediately thinking of evil body-stealing aliens?

    • The fighter pilot’s helmets in the orginal “Battlestar Galactica” had a distinctly Egyptian Pharaoh style to them

  3. Katya, sorry, but the phrase “am I the only one…” or, alternatively, “surely, I can’t be the only person who…” threatens to wrench the riposte from me (usually resisted in terms of actually writing it down and clicking ‘send’) of “yes”. Actually, I don’t, but that may be a failing in me!

    We are visiting Israel towards the end of 2013 with non-Jewish friends who fell in love with the place when we all attended a wedding there last June. This has reminded me to add Bet Shean to our itinerary.

    Thanks.

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