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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Postcard from Israel – Gas Masks.

Our series of ‘postcards’ usually focuses upon historic or geographic aspects of Israel which rarely receive coverage in the foreign mainstream media. This week, however, we invite readers to taste a somewhat different side of Israeli life. 

Many Israelis are currently renewing their gas masks (or as they are also known, protection kits) at distribution stations in shopping malls and school gyms around the country. This massive logistical operation is organised by the IDF’s Home Front Command with truly remarkable efficiency.

Every Israeli citizen gets the specific type of protection kit suited to their age and medical status as recorded in a central computerised system to which the hand-held computers used by the soldiers at the distribution stations are linked. Instruction and advice is at hand for anyone who did not cut their gas mask-wearing teeth during the 1991 Gulf War and the Home Front Command’s website provides both filmed and printed instruction manuals in a variety of languages.  

The pictures below were taken this week at the distribution station in Bet Shean where old and young, new immigrants and native-born Israelis, took time out of their day to come and get kitted out because – as it says on the back of the T-shirts worn by the soldiers on duty at the distribution station – “Protection kits are part of life”. In Israel at least.