Ever wanted to go back in time thousands of years? It may never be possible without a time machine, but Bet Shean will give you the feeling that you have from the moment you enter the National Park.
The reason is a tremendous earthquake that left the city standing still.
Bet Shean is located in a prime location – between the Jordan Valley and the Jezreel Valley – connecting the major nations by road and by sea . Because of this, the area was populated even 5,000 years ago during the Chalcolithic era.
About 3,500 years ago, the town was conquered by Thutmose III as mentioned in the Karnak inscription. The city was settled by Egyptian administrative officials and military personnel for hundreds of years. Eventually there was a massive fire and the Egyptians lost control of the area. It was then settled by just a small population for many years.
After this brief period, the Philistines conquered the area. Beit Shean is where the Philistines hung the fallen bodies of King Saul and his children after the battle of Mount Gilboa (I Samuel 31). During the reigns of King David and King Solomon the city was Israelite. In 732 BCE it was destroyed by the Assyrians who tried to take the entire country.
All was quiet until the Hellenists and then Romans took the land around 2,300 years ago. The city was renamed Scythopolis and built there were bathhouses, Roman theater, hippodrome, cardo, beautiful collonaded streets, magnificent mosaics and a fountain. During the Roman rule the city was one of the 10 important cities in the empire and became part of the Decapolis – the only one located in the Land of Israel.
The city flourished for hundreds of years until it began to decline during the Arab conquest. In 749 CE a massive earthquake rocked the region. Much was destroyed and the city would never be the same as under the Roman rule. Other nations took turns conquering the area, but they remained only small populations.
When visiting Beit She’an National Park one can see the city in much of its glory. This is one of the best places to see Roman streets and buildings from around 2,000 years ago. There are also remnants from the Egyptian period that cannot be seen elsewhere in the nation.
With the collonaded streets, bathhouses, inscriptions and beautiful mosaics and an amphitheater just outside the park, this is a wonderful place to go back in time and learn about the nation’s history.