Beit She’an, a tourist gem

The city of Beit She’an offers many surprises for visitors.

Beit She’an (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Beit She’an
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The sleepy city of Beit She’an, which has long been known as the capital of the Valley of Springs (Emek Hama’ayanot), offers many surprises for visitors, such as beautiful historic buildings, relics from ancient times and lots of fascinating residents. This valley, which really is rich in springs, has been an important population center throughout history. The first known settlement was established 7,000 years ago; archeologists have uncovered remains from a Jewish community that existed there during the Second Temple period.
Later, the Greeks fell in love with the city that lies at the foot of the Gilboa Mountains, so they renamed it Scythopolis, possibly after Scythian mercenaries who settled there. This powerful metropolis was destroyed only as a result of two strong earthquakes that hit the region in 659 and 749 CE. Despite this, the city was not completely abandoned and people continued to inhabit the area continuously under various rulers. Only in 1949 – exactly 1,200 years later – did the construction of the modern city of Beit She’an begin.
Modern Beit She’an is a tourist gem that, unfortunately, does not receive enough attention. There are many interesting cultural, historical and archeological sites in the city that are worth visiting, such as the Beit She’an National Park. Now that there is a train that reaches the city, it is even more accessible to the public.
The municipality has invested great efforts to turn the city into a desirable tourist destination. It built a promenade at the national park that is suitable for pedestrians as well as cyclists, along which you’ll find observation points and shady rest areas with a view of the Harod River (unfortunately, bathing is not allowed).
This is a great place to begin your day in Beit She’an and the perfect place to stop for a tranquil picnic. On hot summer days, it’s best to do this walk either in the morning or in the late afternoon, when temperatures have cooled a little. Many sites, including the national park, have special evening and night tours in the summer to accommodate tourists who’d rather visit during the cooler hours.
Location: Beit She’an, Emek Hama’ayanot
Type: Includes easy walking, with option for overnight stay
Level: Easy, appropriate for families and couples
Season: All year, but not on extremely hot days
Hungry for Hungarian
Another option for beginning the day is partaking in a hearty breakfast at Rosalia, a kosher Hungarian café located in an amazingly preserved old Ottoman building. Rosalia was opened by Chana and Netanel Agiv of Hemdat, who named their café after Chana’s grandmother Rosie, whom Chana credits as the source of her love for baking. Their business is thriving due to their high-quality, tasty homemade food and extremely heartwarming service.
Rosalia also offers catering and takeaway services, so if you prefer, you can buy some pastries and continue straight on to a visit to the nearby Beit She’an Museum, where you’ll learn all about the city’s ancient history. The museum is housed in the Old Post Office, and a promenade has been constructed that leads straight to the national park.
1 Sturman Street, Beit She’an
Details: (04) 645-3366
Directions to Beit She’an National Park: Along promenade from train station or by car from Shaul Hamelech Street.