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Travel to Israel: Bet She'an

Bet She'an (Arabic Beisan) lies athwart the easiest route of passage from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean; hence it was an old city by the second millennium, B.C., when the Egyptians made it an administrative center. The ruins visible today are Roman and adjoin a massive hill, containing the site's older, still buried ruins. Destroyed in an earthquake in the 8th century, the often-rebuilt city was abandoned until modern times, when the Turks built a railroad from Syria to the coast and, inevitably, chose to follow the natural highway. By 1900, the modern town had grown to 2,500 people.

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Israel: Bet She'an picture 1

Looking south from the ancient (and still mostly unexcavated) tel and along the ruins of the city's main street in Byzantine times. The columns in the foreground have toppled, but those in the background, which once supported covered sidewalks, stand. The modern shelter protects a Byzantine mosaic. The building behind it once housed the largest bath in the country. At some 400 feet below sea-level, this was perhaps the hottest Roman town in Palestine.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 2

Looking east from the same vantage point, past two of four columns that were part of the Temple of Dionysus. The columns in the background were once reflected in a decorative Roman pool.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 3

Once with seating for 7,000 on three tiers, the theater has lost its upper tier, while the middle tier has lost its seats.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 4

Latrines flanking an eastern bathhouse and also serving theater patrons.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 5

Assorted capitals scattered in a storage yard.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 6

Floral details on a stone in the same storage yard.

Israel: Bet She'an picture 7

In the adjoining modern town, a 19th century Turkish administrative building was built in part with handy Roman ruins.

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