We visited Bet She’an, located in the northern Jordan Valley last week. When you first walk into the site you are immediately overwhelmed by the scope ans size of it. For sure, it was the largest historical ruins we have visited so far.
What I have come to realize is that here in Israel the history of this region dates back to over the “fifth millenium BC” and that civilization after civilization conquered and destroyed an area and re-built their own cities, many on top of former cities, villages and fortresses.
Natural disasters have also played a major part in the destruction In 749 AD, an earthquake hit the region and devastated Bet She’an. Its evidence was prominent everywhere in the excavations.
During the Late Bronze Age (16th–12th centuries BCE), the Egyptians made Bet She’an the center of their rule over the area then known as Canaan.
King David conquered Bet She’an and in King Solomon’s day it became part of an area encompassing the country’s northern valleys.
In the second half of the fourth century BC, at the time of Alexander the Great, Bet She’an was reestablished as a Greek polis, with all the trappings of Greek culture in the East: colonnaded streets, temples, theaters, markets, fountains and bathhouses.
The Abbasid period saw a village established here. In the Middle Ages, settlement focused mainly on the rise to the south of the old city center, and the Crusaders built a fortress east of the destroyed amphitheater.
After the founding of the State of Israel, Bet She’an was reestablished and began to grow. The ruins, which are the pride of the city, have undergone major restoration and reconstruction, allowing special events and performances to take place in the ancient streets and theater. There is a lightshow presented daily but we did not stay to see it. It is now under control of the Israeli National Parks Authority.