Beit Shean National Park
The fully excavated theater and town of Beit Shean tell the story of daily life in the time of Jesus. When Christianity began to spread around the world in the fourth century, Beit Shean became a Christian town with many churches, so it provides today's tourists enjoying the Holy Land's major attractions with a glimpse of early Christian life.
One of the most ancient cities in the Middle East, Beit Shean was the center of Egyptian rule of Canaan during the Late Bronze Age. In biblical times, it was one of the cities that the Children of Israel failed at conquering and was the impetus for the famous battle of Mount Gilboa, in which King Saul and his sons were killed by the Philistines. King David finally captured the city, and his son Solomon made it an administrative center.
Beit Shean was destroyed by the Assyrians and rebuilt by the Greeks, complete with colonnaded streets, temples, theaters where gladiators fought, markets, fountains and bathhouses. Some of these features can be viewed to this day. During the lifetime of Jesus, Beit Shean, emptied of its pagan inhabitants, was a bustling Jewish town, a member of the Roman alliance of cities (Decapolis).
During the Late Roman period, Jews, pagans and Samaritans lived together in Beit Shean. Grand public buildings were built and adorned with inscriptions and statues. Later, Christians constructed churches and neglected the huge amphitheater. They continued to use the elaborate bathhouses, however, which are on view at the site today. The main street has also been excavated, and you can explore the houses and buildings here on either side. On Jewish holidays and special occasions, performances take place in the ancient theater.