When you drive south from the Sea of Galilee and cross the Jordan River, you enter the Bet She’an Valley, home of many Kibbutzim and Moshavim. The river now forms the border between Israel and Jordan.
Bet She’an (in Hebrew: בֵּית שְׁאָן) is a town of spectacular archaeological excavations and rich history, dating back to biblical times. The Bible mentions it as a Canaanite city within the tribe of Manasseh in the Book of Joshua 17:11-
“וַיְהִי לִמְנַשֶּׁה בְּיִשָּׂשכָר וּבְאָשֵׁר, בֵּית-שְׁאָן וּבְנוֹתֶיהָ וְיִבְלְעָם וּבְנוֹתֶיהָ וְאֶת-יֹשְׁבֵי דֹאר וּבְנוֹתֶיהָ וְיֹשְׁבֵי עֵין-דֹּר וּבְנוֹתֶיהָ, וְיֹשְׁבֵי תַעְנַךְ וּבְנֹתֶיהָ, וְיֹשְׁבֵי מְגִדּוֹ וּבְנוֹתֶיהָ–שְׁלֹשֶׁת, הַנָּפֶת”
“And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Beth-shean and its towns, and Ibleam and its towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns, even the three regions.”
Bet She’an is also mentioned in the Book of Judges 1:27.
Beit She’an was rebuilt as a Hellenistic city about 2,300 years ago and was renamed Scythopolis (“City of the Scyths”). In the prosperous Roman period, it spread south, reaching the peak of its greatness in the fifth century, when it had 30,000 – 40,000 inhabitants.
If you are traveling in Israel, you must see the remains of this magnificent city which can be clearly seen at the city’s main site – the National Park of Beit She’an, which is one of the country’s most beautiful and impressive national parks.
In the northern part is Tel Beit She’an – the location of ancient Beit She’an.
South and east of it are the ruins of Roman-Byzantine Scythopolis, which tell of its richness and greatness.
The city remained at its peak for several more years, following which it declined. After the Arab conquest, it sank to the status of a small town.
Upon the establishment of the State of Israel, it was resettled and new immigrants came to live here. Today, the city numbers some 18,000 inhabitants.