Israel Sites – Beit Shean
Is a city with a very long history. It is situated on a main crossroads about 25 miles south- east of Tiberias and is 390 feet below sea level. The excavations of Tel Bet She’an proved the importance of the place as a station for caravans and a center of Egyptian rule probably as early as the 15th century b.c.e. An Egyptian basalt stone found there, dating from the late 14th century b.c.e., has an inscription which mentions the Habiru (thought by some to be the ancient Hebrews), who disturbed the peace and undermined government authority in the region.
The valley of Bet She’an was the portion of the tribe of Issachar, but the tribe of Manasseh extended its settlements to this territory. During Saul’s reign the city was in the hands of the Philistines, but in the time of Solomon it was again under Jewish rule. The wall, the gate, and the style of stone-cutting in the hill belong to the Solomonic period.
By the first century b.c.e., many Jews lived in Bet She’an.
During the Hasmonean period Bet She’an became an important administrative center, and Alexander Yannai built ramparts around the city. In 63 b.c.e. Pompey revived the Greek way of life, and the city became the capital of a group of ten Greek cities called the Decapolis Alliance.
When the Jewish War broke out in 66 c.e., 13,000 Jews were murdered in Bet She’an.
A beautiful Roman theater, built in 200 c.e. is again in use for concerts. During the mishnaic and talmudic periods Bet She’an was inhabited by Jews. They made fine linen and grew field crops and olives. Bet She’an was then a world center for making and exporting textiles.
An excavated synagogue, dating from the fourth century, had a beautiful mosaic floor of geometrical design. The synagogue was burned down in 624.
From the beginning of the 20th century, Jews started to resettle in the area and in the 1990s, Beit Shean is a predominantly Sephardic development town with 14,800 inhabitants, despite the shelling that has taken place from time to time from beyond the Jordan River. Visitors travel to Beit Shean to view the extensive archaeological remains in the city, especially the Roman Theater which holds up to 7000 spectators and is one of the finest archaeological sites in Israel.