Postcard from Israel – Beit She’arim

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Burial cave of Rabbi Judah HaNassi

The ancient Galilee town of Beit She’arim is famous for having been one of the main Jewish centres of the second to fourth centuries CE due to the fact that one of its prominent residents was Rabbi Judah HaNassi, complier of the Mishna, who also headed the Sanhedrin and moved it to Beit She’arim from Shefar’am. 

In later life, Judah HaNassi moved to Tsippori for health reasons and the Sanhedrin moved with him, but according to his wishes he was buried in Beit She’arim. With the Romans having declared Jerusalem – and therefore the Mount of Olives – out of bounds for Jews in 135 CE after the revolt, Beit She’arim became the burial place of choice for the ‘who’s who’ of the Jewish world both in Israel and the diaspora  and a large number of impressive burial caves and catacombs rediscovered in 1936 display a wealth of interesting artwork, revealing the burial fashions of the Mishnaic Era. 

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