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Beit She'arim National Park
Beit She'arim National Park
|Location Beit She'arim, Israel|
|City Beit She'arim|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 32.69768,35.1799|
Beit She'arim (Hebrew: בֵּית שְׁעָרִים, Arabic: بيت الغرباء bayt al-ġurabāʾ), also known as Beth She'arim or Besara (Greek), literally translated to The Strangers House, is the archaeological site of a Jewish town and a large number of ancient rock-cut Jewish tombs. The necropolis 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 Parks Authority. According to Moshe Sharon, following Kutcher, the name of the city was more correctly called Beit She'arayim (the House, or Village) of Two Gates.
History and time period
Beit She'arim was founded at the end of the 1st century BCE, during the reign of King Herod. It was a prosperous Jewish town until destroyed by fire in 352, at the end of the Jewish revolt against Gallus. After some time it was renewed as a Byzantine city. From the early Arab period (7th century), settlement was sparse. A small Arab village called Sheikh Bureik was located here in the late 16th century. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus Flavius referred to the city as Besara, the administrative center of the estates of Queen Berenice in the Jezreel Valley. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Sanhedrin (Jewish legislature and supreme council) moved to Beit She'arim. Rabbi Judah HaNasi, head of the Sanhedrin and compiler of the Mishna, lived there. In the last seventeen years of his life, he moved to Sepphoris for health reasons, but planned his burial in Beit She'arim on land he received as a gift from his friend, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. The most desired burial place for Jews was the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, but in 135 CE, when Jews were barred from the area, Beit She'arim became an alternative. The archaeological importance of the site was recognized in the 1880s by the Survey of Western Palestine, which explored many tombs and catacombs but did no excavation. The Arab Palestinian village of Sheikh Bureik was located on the hill until the 1920s, when the land was purchased by the Jewish National Fund. In 1936, Alexander Zaïd, employed by the JNF (Jewish National Fund) as a watchman, reported that he had found a breach in the wall of one of the caves which led into another cave decorated with inscriptions. In the 1930s and 1950s, the site was excavated by Benjamin Mazar and Nahman Avigad
In October 2009, two new caves were opened to the public whose burial vaults date to the first two centuries C.