Bet Shean

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 Bet Shean

Located at the intersection of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys, about a half hour’s drive from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee is a major Biblical city, Bet Shean.  It is one of the most ancient cities in the country.  Excavations show it was first settled in the Chalcolithic Period (some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago).  The city has had many conquerors, including the Philistines who fastened King Saul’s body to the wall of Bet Shean after the famous battle on Mount Gilboa (I Samuel 31: 8-11). The city became part of the kingdoms of David and Solomon and was eventually destroyed in a fire. The city was rebuilt as a Hellenistic city about 2,300 years ago and was renamed  Scythopolis (City of the Scythes.) In the succeeding Roman period, Bet Shean spread south, reaching the peak of its greatness in the 5th century when it had 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. The magnificence of the city was destroyed by an earthquake on Jan. 18, 749. At its peak, the city extended over an area of some 370 acres, and you can still see the remains of the wall that surrounded it. In addition, several impressive buildings have been uncovered in the national park, including a theater (still used for events and shows), a public bath-house (the largest found to date in Israel), two magnificent colonnaded streets, a Roman temple, a decorative fountain building, and a large basilica marking the center of the city.

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