Beit She’arim National Park encompasses some of the most dramatic and interesting evidence of the Jewish past in the Galilee and of the Jewish world of Roman times.
After the Romans exiled the Jews from Jerusalem in the second century CE, Jewish community life reestablished itself in the Galilee, and Beit She’arim rose to prominence as the headquarters of the Sanhedrin. It was also the Jewish world’s best-known cemetery, after Rabbi Judah the Prince, the redactor of the Mishnah, was laid to rest here.
Excavations have unearthed 20 catacombs. A small museum occupies one, and visitors can walk the dramatically lit halls of another, where over 200 stone coffins bear fascinating inscriptions and designs that are testimony to the complex Jewish cultural milieu of those days. The remains of a synagogue also attest to the town’s vibrant Jewish life, and an olive press recalls its main livelihood.
On a hill above the national park, which is located near the town of Tivon southeast of Haifa, is a statue of the pioneer Alexander Zayid, founder of the watchmen’s organization, the Shomer, who settled here in the 1920s and discovered the tombs.