Beit She’an (Scythopolis): A former Egyptian, Biblical, Hellenistic, Roman Byzantine city in the North-East section of the Holy Land that played, historically, a very important role due to its geographical location, at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley.
The small town on top of the Tel became an Egyptian administration center of the region after the conquest of Beit She’an by pharaoh Thutmose III, in his military campaign to the area in the 15th century BCE, as recorded in an inscription at Karnak.
Around 1100 BC, Tel Beit She’an was conquered by the Philistines, who used it as a base of operations against the Israelites. During a battle against King Saul, nearby Mt. Gilboa in 1004 BCE, the Philistines defeated the King and his army. Bible records in 1 Samuel 31 that “the victorious Philistines hung the body of King Saul on the walls of Beit She’an“.
David, who became King after Saul, was able to capture Beit She’an in a brilliant military campaign and succeeded to expel the Philistines from the area.
During the Greek occupation of the Holy Land in the 4th C BCE, Beit She’an was named “Scythopolis“. The region was controlled by the Ptolemies from 301 to 198 BCE. The city is mentioned in 3rd–2nd century BCE during the Wars between the Ptolemid and Seleucid dynasties. In 198 BCE the Seleucids finally conquered the region.
In 63 BCE, Pompey made Judea a part of the Roman Empire. Beit She’an was rebuilt and the town center shifted from the summit of the Tel to its slopes. Scythopolis prospered and became the Capital city of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of ten cities which were centers of Greco-Roman culture.
Many archaeological remains were found dating to the Byzantine period (325–636 CE)
In 638, the Holy Land was conquered by the Muslims and Scythopolis was named Baysan.
In 749, Umayyad Baysan was completely devastated by an earthquake.
During the Crusader period, the Lordship of Bessan was occupied by Tancred in 1099 and became a domain of The Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1101, probably until around 1120.
Today Beit Se’an is a beautiful National Park with some of the most spectacular archaeological remains in the ME.
From Beit She’an we drive southward on route 90 through the Jordan Valley along the traditional route that our ancestors traveled during the 3 High Holidays on their pilgrimage ascending from Jericho to Jerusalem.
By bus, taxi or guided tour.