Beit She'arim National Park

Beit She'arim ( _he. בֵּית שְׁעָרִים), also known as Beth She'arim, is the archeological site of a Jewish town and necropolis. The site is part of the Beit She'arim National Park, which borders the town of Kiryat Tiv'on on the northeast and is located close to the modern moshav of Beit She'arim. It is situated 20 km east of Haifa in the southern foothills of the Lower Galilee. The park is managed by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority.

Beth She'arim was discovered by accident in 1936 by the Jewish watchman Alexander Zaïd, who was sent to live in the area while guarding the lands of the Jewish National Fund. [ [ Bet Shearim] The Jewish Magazine] In the 1930s and 1950s it was excavated by Benjamin Mazar and Nahman Avigad.

Most of the remains date from the 2nd to 4th century CE. A large number of individuals was buried in the more than twenty catacombs of the necropolis. Geographical references in inscriptions on the walls of the catacombs reveal that the necropolis was used by people from the town of Beit She'arim, from elsewhere in Galilee, and even from cities as far away as as Palmyra and Tyre. ["The Oxford encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East" considers Beth She'arim of international importance (Volume 1, p. 309-11); Tessa Rajak considers its importance regional ("The rabbinic dead and the Diaspora dead at Beth She’arim" in P. Schäfer (ed.), "The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman culture" 1 (Tübingen 1997), p. 349-66); S. Schwartz however, in "Imperialism and Jewish society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E." (Princeton 2001), p. 153-8, plays down the importance of Beth She'arim.] Together with the images on walls and sarcophagi, the inscriptions show that the necropolis was used mainly, or only, by Jews. According to the Jerusalem Talmud [Kelaim 9, 32a-b.] Beit She'arim is the burial place of Rabbi Judah haNasi (Rabbi Judah the Prince), the head of the Sanhedrin. This is believed to be a major reason for the popularity of the necropolis in Late Antiquity. One of the catacombs (nr. 14) has been identified as Rabbi Judah's burial site. [E.g. "The Oxford encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East", Volume 1, p. 309-11. For a more cautious view see M. Jacobs, "Die Institution des jüdischen Patriarchen, eine quellen- und traditionskritische Studie zur Geschichte der Juden in der Spätantike" (Tübingen 1995), p. 247, n. 59.]


External links

* [ Pictures of Beit She'arim] Israel in Photos

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