Beit She'arim National Park

Cave of coffins.jpg
Map showing the location of Beit She'arim National Park
Beit She'arim (Hebrew: בֵּית שְׁעָרִים‬, "House of the Gates") is the currently used name for the ancient Jewish town of Bet She'arāyim (בּית שערַיִם‬, "House of Two Gates") or Kfar She'arāyim (כְּפר שערַיִם‬, "Village of Two Gates").[1] The Arabic name of the hill it stands on is Sheikh Ibreik or Sheikh Abreik.[1] Another Arabic name is bayt al-ġurabāʾ (بيت الغرباء).[citation needed]

The partially excavated archaeological site consists mainly of an extensive necropolis of rock-cut tombs and some remains of the town itself. The site is managed by the National Parks Authority as the Beit She'arim National Park. It borders the town of Kiryat Tiv'on on the northeast and is located five kilometres west of Moshav Beit She'arim.[2] It is situated 20 km east of Haifa in the southern foothills of the Lower Galilee.

In 2015 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rationale of the committee was as follows: The town's vast necropolis, carved out of soft limestone, contains more than 30 burial cave systems. Although only a portion of the necropolis has been excavated, it has been likened to a book inscribed in stone. Its catacombs, mausoleums, and sarcophagi are adorned with elaborate symbols and figures as well as an impressive quantity of incised and painted inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, Palmyrene, and Greek, documenting two centuries of historical and cultural achievement. The wealth of artistic adornments contained in this, the most ancient extensive Jewish cemetery in the world, is unparalleled anywhere.[3][4]

According to Moshe Sharon, following Yechezkel Kutscher, the name of the city was Beit She'arayim or Kfar She'arayim (the House/Village of Two Gates).[1] The ancient Yemenite Jewish pronunciation of the name is also "Bet She'arayim", which is more closely related to the Ancient Greek rendition of the name, i.e. Βησάρα, "Besara".[5]

The popular orthography for the Hebrew word for house, בֵּית‬, is "beit", while the traditional King James one is "beth", the effort being now to replace both with the etymologically better suited "bet".

Pottery shards discovered at the site indicate that a first settlement there dates back to the Iron Age.[6]

Beit She'arayim was founded at the end of the 1st century BCE, during the reign of King Herod.[7] The Roman Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, in his Vita, referred to the city in Greek as Besara, the administrative center of the estates of Queen Berenice in the Jezreel Valley.[8]

Benjamin Mazar described it as a prosperous Jewish town eventually destroyed by fire in 352, at the end of the Jewish revolt against Gallus and that after some time it was renewed as a Byzantine city,[7] but more recent research shows that the Gallus revolt had a much lesser impact on the town.[6] The Galilee earthquake of 363 did damage Bet She'arayim, but without long-lasting effects.[6]

This page was last edited on 11 June 2018, at 21:33 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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