An Introduction to Beit Shearim
Located on the edge of the lower Galilee 20 kilometers east of Haifa, Beit Shearim was the seat of the Sanhedrin and the home of many renowned rabbinic sages in the late 2nd century C.E. At the beginning of the third century Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (Judah the Prince) moved the Sanhedrin to nearby Tzippori, but when he died in 220 C.E., he himself was buried in Beit Shearim.
As an antiquities site, Bet Shearim NP‘s outstanding feature is its extensive underground burial chambers or “Catacombs”, which contain many large stone sarcophagi. These catacombs, together with the variety of languages appearing on the sarcophagi reflect the special status Beit Shearim achieved in the 3rd and 4th centuries as burial site for Jews from Israel and the Diaspora.
On the walls of the Catacombs and on some of the sarcophagi appear a variety of decorations. These decorations include Jewish motifs, such as a seven branched menorah, shofar, etrog and lulav, as well as examples of figurative art, which were foreign to Jewish culture.
Near the park’s entrance is a statue of Alexander Zeid, a legendary Jewish watchman, who defended Zionist pioneering settlements in the adjacent Jezreel Valley in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Visiting Beit Shearim
Beit Shearim National Park lies off of Route # 722, approximately 800 meters south of the Shomrim Junction. Follow the brown and white signs to the park entrance (admission charged), where you can pick up a brochure about the site. There are toilets and a kiosk next to the parking area. The Catacombs are a 3 minute walk from the parking area.
8:00 – 16:00 October – March
8:00 – 17:00 April – September
8:00 – 15:00 Fridays and on the eve of holidays.