• Talma Gotteiner

Beit She’an: The Gateway to Paradise

Updated: Apr 22


Hi there!

To be accurate, the full quote has been translated as follows: “If the Garden of Eden is in the Land of Israel, then its gate is Beit She’an” (Reish Lakish, Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 19a).

You may have heard of Beit She’ans marvelous archeological national park and after you read this post, I hope you’ll have some additional locations on your list of things to do. I was invited to participate in a trip, courtesy of the Municipality of Beit She’an designed to present the additional present-day attractions so I am happy to share the additional offerings with you and hope you can find something to suit your taste. Below is a photo of Mayor Rafi Ben-Sheetrit who came to discuss the current touristic initiatives.

Trip Itinerary Options

  • Beit She’an National Park

  • A local multi-cultural food tour

  • Mega Karting Beit She’an

  • Nahal Harod Park

  • The Old City Center

  • Beit She’an Museum

  • Rozalia Café

  • The Saraya Building and Summer ‘Scythopolis’ Festival

Trip Anchors

Beit She’an National Park

This archeological park is currently on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites and is truly a wonder of the world.

Beit She’an is a city located at the junction of the Jordan River and Jezreel valley, a strategic and fertile location. In antiquity, Beit She’an sat on the crossroads of two major highways leading via the north-south axis from Egypt to Asia Minor and on the east-west axis between Yemen and Damascus. That, together with its topographical height providing natural protection and an abundance of water from the Harod Stream and the subterraneous flow from the Gilboa mountain through the Syrian-African rift, led it to become the largest of the Roman “Decapolis” (ten city-states). Beit She’an is mentioned in the bible as the city in which the bodies of King Saul and his son Jonathan were taken to be hung after their battle on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:10).The Romans called Beit She’an ‘Scythopolis’.

Photographer: Eli Prachter

Archeologists have dated 20 layers of settlement periods, the earliest of which is from the pre-historic late Neolithic period ~6,000 BCE. However, the main points of interest when visiting on site today are from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Beit She’an presents a nearly complete Roman city with the largest preserved bathhouse covering 7 Dunam (~1.7 acres), a 7,000 seat Roman theater, a reconstructed Cardo (main street), ruins of a large Roman temple, a fountain, mosaics and much more.

An additional elliptical hippodrome/amphitheater lies outside the park near the boardwalk leading from the old city center of Beit She’an to the national park. Reish Lakish, the man I quoted above, was a Jewish gladiator who fought in Beit She’an before being released and becoming a Talmudic scholar.

The national park has invested in a gorgeous multimedia night display bringing the city live with characters so that you can enjoy it even after sundown as recommended during the approaching summer.

Mega Karting Beit She’an

I know where I’m taking my 17.5 year-old son next time I visit! The Mega Karting in Beit She’an is the biggest open Karting track in Israel. It’s 640 meters long, has 14 karting cars and hosts races about once every 6 weeks. It is suitable for persons over 8 years of age and 1.35 meters high (both) because karting is not about speed, but about controlling the curves. It’s open 7 days a week between 11:00-20:00 except twice a week between 15:00-17:00, when it is closed for children with special needs. They also have group activities aside from the regular karting that include all sorts of tasks like switching drivers, fueling etc. In short, I’ve included it as a must see 😊.

Address: Zim Center

Open: Sun-Thurs and Sat 11:00-21:00

Phone: 04-6077011

A Local Multi-Cultural Food Tour

If you haven’t had a Shabbat meal in a while, this tour will make up for it. It’s a feast! Additionally, the best thing about this food tour is, that it is available year-round and is flexible. The food tour includes visiting a different house for each course and trying a different ethnic cuisine. It’s an interesting way to see Beit She’an, hear an assortment of life stories and taste a variety of seasonings. However, you can also order a full meal at each and every one of the ladies’ houses according to your preference and shorten the tour. You can even buy certain dishes to take home.

We started out with a Tunisian first course at Michal’s house that included homemade couscous, interesting salads such as cooked lemons and her father’s recipe for almond milk.

Due to our tight schedule the Iranian main course prepared by Lily and the Moroccan dessert prepared by Sonia were both served at Lily’s house. Each loaded a separate table with the best delicacies you could imagine.

They are all friends and so is their organizer Avital, so they saw to some music and we had a bit of a party.

Phone for Tour Reservation: Avital 050-6866444

Additional Options

Nahal Harod Park

The city has taken advantage of the Harod stream that flows nearby and together with the drainage authority has created a quiet park with tables and benches overlooking the stream. There is a paved path for hikers or bikers leading from the train station to the park and an additional circular route within the park if you want to make a day of it.

Address: Shaul Hamelech Street.

The Old City Center

Three locations adjacent to one another can fill up a couple of hours on their own.

Beit She’an Museum

Beit She’an Museum is dedicated to the modern history of the city from its establishment in 1949 till today. The museum is a product of the initiative of a few local tourist guides who thought that the story of the first settlers and their hardships should be told. The museum displays several authentic items collected from locals as well as a huge showcase of photographs. Each guide tells his or her own personal story and brings it to life in a different fashion. There is even an English speaking guide for tourists.

Address: 7 Kikar Ha’atzmaut St., Beit She’an

Phone: Shayke 052-3136396, Itzik 052-7822252

.

Rozalia Café

Rozalia café is just across the street from the museum and is the perfect place for a coffee break. The café is situated in what used to be the municipality during the Ottoman empire. Today it is a local institution visited by people who know where to go. The café is named after the owner Hannah Agiv’s Hungarian grandmother who taught her how to bake Hungarian desserts. The café accordingly is dairy and kosher and serves freshly baked pastries each day.

Address: 1 Sturman St., Beit She’an

Open: Sun-Thurs 8:00-22:30, Fri 7:30-14:00. Closed on Saturday.

Phone: 04-6453366

The Saraya Building and Summer ‘Scythopolis’ Festival

It is impossible to miss the magnificent architectural structure that stands in the Old City, on Sturman Street. In the days of the Turkish Sultan Abd al-Hamid II, Beit She'an experienced economic prosperity. The city was rebuilt and the Saraya (palace in Persian and Turkish), was built in 1892 to serve as the local government house administrating the Sultan's land. The building has a main entrance gate with a Turkish inscription and the Sultan's emblem. Later, during the Mandate, the Saraya continued to function as the center of government. The windows were sealed and the second floor was built. On the top floor were the offices of the District Officer and the quarters of the British policemen. Customs and detention rooms were built as well. Following an Arab revolt that took place between 1936 and 1939, defensive, observation and shooting positions were built in the left corner of the ground floor and on the roof.

Today, the Saraya is open for special events, most imminently the Summer Festival ‘The Scytho-Market’. Every Thursday between 18:00-midnight, the municipality holds a fair in the center of the old town near the Saraya building. There are stalls with authentic food, boutique beers, wine and light beverages, live musicians who play a variety of musical styles from around the world and original local art from Beit She'an, the Springs Valley and the Gilboa.

Since the multimedia night display is active as well during the summer months, the thought behind the Scythomarket is that you can get to Beit She’an at 18:00, enjoy a pleasant, inexpensive meal at the Scythomarket, walk 10 minutes on the specially built boardwalk to the National Park and enjoy the multimedia night display.

Food

This post is all inclusive.

Accomodation

Currently accommodation in Beit She’an is in B&B homes. When reserving a tour at any of the above sites, you will be referred to them.

My timeline

The trip took a day starting from the afternoon. We left Tel-Aviv at 14:30 and returned at midnight, in order to experience the multimedia display at the national park. I’ve placed the locations on the map for your convenience.

This is what it looks like on the map:

See you at the Scythomarket!

Best,

Talma

P.S. If you're interested in travel-related offers, you're welcome to view my 'guided tours' and 'best deals' pages. Subscribers also have 'members only' benefits such as my updated events bulletin. To subscribe.

Post Visit Note: An additional hiking trail exists nearby in Menachamiya. Check it out if you're interested.

Disclaimer: The blog may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I will receive a small percentage of the profits at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Israel-Best-Trips.com

#Museums #Archeology #Food #Parks #Karting #Festival

Disclaimer: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I will receive a small percentage of the profits at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Israel-Best-Trips.com

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