October 28: Bet She'an National Park

Whew! October 28th was an exciting but very long day. So long, in fact, that we will be breaking the day into four different posts.

(1) Bet She'an National Park
(2) Capernaum
(3) Mount of Beatitudes
(4) Sea of Galilee

We now welcome you to...

Bet She'an National Park is the site of over 400 archaeologically-excavated acres from the Byzantine period. The ruins include the ancient city of Bet She'an-Scythopolis and the imposing Tel Bet She'an. Excavations were first carried out in Bet She'an in the 1920s; yet archaeologists have only uncovered about one tenth of the city's area.

If you are planning on going to Bet She'an solo (not in a tour group), we must warn you that the actual ruins are difficult to find even after you walk through the park's entrance. You can either take the free route and walk down hidden paths, through bushes and trees - OR you can ride the tram for a small fee. We recommend the latter, seeing as we wasted quite a bit of time trying to find the place on our own.

This 7,000 seat Roman Theater was built in the 21st century. The Bet She'an theater is known as the best-preserved ancient theater in Israel. All plays occurred in daylight, when the metropolis was the busiest. Though the walls were built in order to block out distractions from the busy city outside of the theater, can you imagine how loud the actors had to speak in this massive theater? 

The lovely columns of Bet She'an.

The Western Bathhouses

  1. The bathhouse toilets - the bathhouse provided public toilets. The toilets pictured here are the remains. Toilet "paper" was a soft leaf attached to a twig. A channel of running water under the seats afforded drainage. 
  2. Outlook into Western Bathhouses
  3. Entrance to Bathhouses - some of the facilities, such as this, faced an open courtyard paved with mosaic floors.
  4. We're pretty sure this was the king's latrine quarters. Don't hold us to that.
  5. Model of the Bathhouse - the bathhouse included a swimming pool, massage rooms, public toilets, and other conveniences.

  1. The outlook over Bet She'an. We had to climb many steps to get to this point. Well worth it! This, of course, was at the end of the hike. 
  2. Sigma - a semicircular concourse of the Byzantine period, referred to as the Sigma in an inscription found at the site, surrounded by rooms opening onto it.
  3. Colored mosaics were displayed on the floors of the rooms. This one depicts Tyche, guardian goddess of the city, wearing a crown of city walls and holding a cornucopia.
We spent about three hours navigating the ruins. We made one last stop at the gift shop and ate schwarmas before we left for next destination: Capernaum. 

Shwarmas, by the way, are wrapped like the Greek gyros but only include lamb (no beef). The lamb is normally sliced from a 3-foot tower of racked meat. I ate a falafel schwarma (no meat). The falafel is basically a hushpuppy, except made out of chickpeas. They put hummus, coleslaw and tomatoes in the schwarma. 

What about you?

Do you think you could act on a stage like that... and be heard?

What fascinates you the most about past eras and excavated ruins? 

Have you ever had a version of a schwarma? What were your thoughts?