The Beit She'an Valley is an area in the Jordan Valley of northern Israel. It consists of the town of Beit She'an (also spelled Beit/Bet/Beth Shean/She'an/Shan), as well as a number of kibbutzim and other small agricultural communities.
Cities and villages
- Beit She'an – The town giving the valley its name.
Beit She'an has been inhabited since Biblical times, and the city is mentioned several times in the Bible. Later, it became a major city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Today, there are several archaeological sites from different time periods.
The Beit She'an Valley is below sea level, so it gets very hot and humid in summer. On the positive site, it has numerous springs and water sources that you can cool off in on a hot day. For that reason, many Israelis travel here to relax in the springs or during hot summer days. The valley was even nicknamed the "gateway to heaven" in Jewish sources.
Though considered by many to be an extension of the neighboring Jezreel Valley region, the Beit She'an Valley really does possess its own unique geography and character. The Gilboa mountain range borders the Beit She'an Valley in the southwest.
To get in from most cities by bus you will probably have to go to Afula first. From there, take route 411 or 412 to Beit She'an. Route 411 is the most direct. Route 412 is a few minutes slower, serving Beit Alfa and other small communities along the way.
There are also a few direct buses a day from Tel Aviv to Beit She'an (route 843).
From Jerusalem, take the direct bus 961 or 966 from the Central Bus Station. It takes about 2 hours 20 minutes. The ride is scenic, descending first to the Dead Sea and then traveling north through the Jordan river valley.
- 1 Beit She'an railway station. The station sits on the site of the 1904 station which saw service end in 1948 but service was resumed in 2016 after the line was rebuilt in standard gauge. There is a Israel Railways train every one hour from Haifa via Afula.
Hitchhiking is relatively common here, and considered safer than in other parts of Israel. Without a car, it can be the only way of getting to some of the more remote communities. Stand in a safe place by the side of the road (like a bus stop) and point your index finger outward. To indicate that you want to go somewhere close by, you can point towards the ground.
- 1 Beit She'an National Park, ☎ , . April-September: 8:00-17:00, October-March: 8:00-16:00. Located in the northern part of the modern city, preserves the extensive remains of the ancient city, both the Caananite and Egyptian city on the dramatic tel or high city-mound, and the extensive, well-preserved Romano-Byzantine city below. Extensively excavated and reconstructed since 1989, this antiquity site is one well worth visiting. adults ₪23, children ₪12.
- 2 Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park (Located on Kibbutz Hefzibah, 7 km west of Beit She'an on Route 669), ☎ . April–September 8AM-5PM, October–March 8AM-4PM. An excavated 5th century synagogue with a remarkable mosaic floor, Beit Alfa was the scene of the first native Israeli archaeological excavation, conducted even before Independence. An Aramaic inscription states that the mosaic was laid at the time of the emperor Justin (ruled 518-527); the Greek inscription is in memory of the artists who made the mosaic, Marianus and his son Hanina. The highlight of the site is the mosaic floor in the central room of the synagogue, easily one of the most important mosaics discovered in Israel. Each of its three panels depicts a scene - the Holy Ark, the Zodiac (with the names of the 12 signs in Hebrew and a central image of the sun-god Helios - a most unusual addition to a synagogue!), and the story of the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. The four women in the corners of the mosaic represent the four seasons. A film about life in the ancient village and the making of the mosaic floor is available to view in Hebrew, English and German. adults ₪18, children ₪8.
- 3 Naharayim, ☎ . The old bridge across the Jordan river. Nearby, a water power station can be visited.
There are several Kibbutzim or communal villages in the Beit She'an Valley. Many of them have natural springs that are relatively warm even in the winter and have nice hikes. It is also interesting just to walk around a kibbutz to see how they farm and go about there lives. The kibbutzim are private property so you might have to ask permission before you visit (depending on the kibbutz and what you want to do there).
- Nir David
- Sde Eliyahu – Has a natural spring and a mini zoo.
- 4 Ein HaNatsiv. Has a great natural spring ("HaMaayan"/"Ein Yehudah") with clean water, a diving-board and a Tarzan swing. Hold you feet very still and you can feel the tiny fish biting your toes. You might meet other people and maybe get some free food from someone making a bbq. Mostly young people with their friends or soldiers visit the natural spring. No entry on Saturday.
- Tirat Tsvi
- 1 Gan HaShlosha (Sakhne), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A natural water park, with a spring that maintains a constant 28-degree Celsius temperature, so the water is good for swimming all year around. There are a number of pools here, and large park areas, as well as an archaeology museum, and a reconstructed early Zionist "Stockade and Tower" settlement from the 1930s. Be sure to get a natural massage from the waterfall just before the last pool and then the natural whirlpool in the last pool. ₪40/24/20 adult/child/senior.
- Smoke Hooker/Nagilah (water pipe with flavored tobacco) – You're bound to see old men or young teenagers in Beit She'an relaxing while smoking Nagilah. You can rent one from many small shops for around ₪10. They will set it up for you with the coal and tobacco, all you have to do is breathe in, feel the flavor and remember its one of the few things that both young adults and old men enjoy doing.
- 2 Gan Garoo. A small zoo where you can see, pet, and feed a variety of Australian wildlife. The name combines the Hebrew "Gan" (garden/park) with the word "Kangaroo".
- 3 Nahal HaKibbutzim (Turn off route 669 just south of the junction with route 6667.), ☎ . A short river fed by spring water that is great for swimming in on a hot day. Water depth is a consistent 1-2 meters, so you can go in on foot and the water will push you along, like a natural "lazy river". As of last notice, entry is free and unrestricted. A great stop on a trip through the region.
- 4 Mount Gilboa. A mountain range overlooking the Jezreel and Beit She'an valleys in northern Israel. Great for short and longer hikes.
- Mega Karting Beit Shean.
- Bio-Tour Sde Eliyahu. A tour of kibbutz life, organic farming, and the natural environment.
- 5 Nahal Harod. The stream which runs north of ancient Beit Shemesh. A nice, scenic, easy hike.
- Beit She'an Flea Market – there is a flea market on Wednesdays which has many nice fruits and vegetables, and a small selection of cheap clothes.
Eat and drink
For night life you'll have to look outside Beit She'an town. Some of the non-religious Kibbutzim have bars.
Not many budget options exist in Beit She'an. It is probably best to stay in the surrounding areas and visit the Beit She'an Valley for a day trip.
- Nir David Zimmer, Kibbutz Nir David, ☎ . Rural accommodation surrounded by green lawns, trees and flowers, the hotel/zimmer includes 50 beautiful wooden huts, equipped with satellite TVs, Jacuzzi baths and kitchen accessories.
- Ganei Huga. This facility provides lodging in air conditioned yurts (Mongolian tents).
This area is mostly below sea level, so it gets hot and humid in the summer. Be sure to drink lots of water!
- The Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, the Lower Galilee with Nazareth and the West Bank are closeby destination worth a visit.
- Jordan is only 10 minutes away by car, passing through the nearby border crossing.
|Routes through Beit Shean Valley|
|Eilat ← Jericho ←||S N||→ Tiberias → Kiryat Shemona|