In the heart of the national park is Harod Stream, whose waters flow all year round.
Status: the Bet She'an National Park was declared in 1965.
Reasons for declaration: conserving the tel of Biblical Bet She'an, with remains going back to the Chalcolithic period; conserving the ruins of the magnificent city from the Roman and Byzantine periods and preparing them for public display; preserving the wetland habitat of Harod Stream.
the national park is in the northern part of the town of Bet She'an. Access is from Shmuel HaMelekh St.
Bet She'an has a long and fascinating past. The city made maximum use of the fertile soil and abundance of water in the area, the good climate for agriculture, and the geographic location at an exceptionally important junction of roads.
Human beings made their homes in Bet She'an tel as long ago as the 5th millennium BCE. In the late Canaanite period ( 16th – 12th centuries BCE) the Egyptians ruled the area, and the entire land of Israel.
The Philistines apparently ruled the city for a time. According to the Bible, the Philistines exposed the bodies of King Saul and his son on the walls of Bet She'an, after defeating the armies of Israel in the battle of Gilboa: "They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan" (I Samuel 31:10). Later, in 732 BCE, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III destroyed Bet She'an in his campaign of war against the Kingdom of Israel.
During the Hellenistic period (4th century BCE), new settlers established a city-state (polis) in Bet She'an, in accordance with the best tradition of Hellenistic urban culture in the east: streets adorned with columns, temples, theaters, markets, bathhouses, and fountains. The city was called Nysa-Scythopolis in Greek, after the nursemaid of Dionysius, god of wine. According to the local tradition, the nursemaid was buried at Bet She'an. The discovery of a statue of Dionysius in excavations carried out at the site is evidence that the residents did indeed worship him.
In 63 BCE, after a brief period of Hasmonean rule, the city was conquered by the Romans, and became one of the cities of the Decapolis - a group of cities with a Hellenistic-Roman cultural character, most of them in Transjordan. Magnificent public buildings were constructed in the prosperous city.
During the Byzantine period too, when the state religion was Christianity, Bet She'an continued to flourish and in the 5th century CE it was capital of the second district of the Land of Israel (Palaestina Secunda), which included the Galilee valleys and eastern Transjordan. The city covered an area of 1300 dunams, and was home to more than 40,000 residents. It was known as an excellent agricultural area, and noted for the production of good quality linen fabrics. The amora Resh Lakish made his famous statement about Bet She'an: "If the Garden of Eden is in the Land of Israel, then its gate is Bet Shean" (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 19a).
After the Arab conquest, in the first half of the 7th century, Bet She'an lost its position to Tiberias, and in 749 the city was completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake. Bet She'an became a rural settlement, and during the Crusader period a fortress was built there, to the east of the ruined amphitheater, making use of many of its building stones.
Bet She'an is at the meeting point of the Jordan Valley and Harod Valley, at the heart of the Syrian-African rift. The climate is hot, but abundant springs rise in the valley. The area is seismically active, and in the course of history there have been quite a number of earthquakes.
Harod Stream tunnels through the basalt rock in the area of the National Park. The many springs that flowed here in the past left the sediment of travertine blocks on the banks of the streams.
Harod Stream drains the northern valleys eastward from the national watershed. The stream starts out at the foot of Givat Hamoreh near Afula. It crosses the entire length of Harod Valley, passes through Bet She'an National Park, and continues on to the Jordan River. It is 32 km in length, and its drainage basin covers an area of 195 km².
On its way to the Jordan Harod Stream crosses the three terraces of Bet She'an Valley: the upper terrace, on which the town of Bet She'an is built, drops in a 40 m escarpment to the middle terrace, the Jordan plain (Kikar Hayarden). This terrace is made of Lissan marl, and is the infrastructure of the Jordan Valley, and through it the stream has cut a third terrace – Ge'on Hayarden, a few dozen meters lower than the plain.
Harod Stream passes through Bet She'an National Park in the section between the "bridge" to the west and Road 90 to the east, at the entrance to the basalt ravine.
Harod Stream sees powerful flooding in the winter, and in the summer continues flow thanks to waters from field drainage and treated effluent. In the past, raw sewage from the town of Bet She'an and the cow sheds of the kibbutzim was discharged into the stream, but this practice has been stopped.
In the section of Harod Stream in the national park water-loving vegetation such as the common reed (Phragmites australis) giant reed (Arundo donax) is to be found. Water flows in the stream all year round, but on the way it collects salts that affect the species of vegetation. Dominating the stream banks are plants that are resistant to salinity, such as hairy sea heath (Frankenia hirsute), shrubby saltbush (Atriplex halimus), Jordan tamarisk (Tamarix jordanis), and camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum). Also to be found in the stream is commicarpus (Commicarpus helenae) a Sudanese climber that is rare in Israel.
On the hillsides away from the influence of the water are jujube trees (Ziziphus spina-christi), and between them many species of annuals. On the stream banks there are also cultivated plants, among them cypress trees (Cupressus sempervirens), North Indian rosewoods (Dalbergia sissoo), casuarinas (Casuarina) and Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis).
Action has been taken against invasive species in the stream, mainly against the prickly thorn (Parkinsonia aculeate) and the golden wreath wattle (Acacia saligna).
Living on the open hillsides are rodents, such as the house mouse (Mus musculus), Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), black rat (Rattus rattus), and lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens). Reptiles such as the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca), star lizard (Stellagama stellio), ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus), and fan-fingered gecko (Ptyodactylus guttatus). Caspian turtles (Mauremys caspica) live in Harod Stream. Larger mammals also pass through the national park, such as the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), swamp cat (Felis chaus), golden jackal (Canis aureus), mongoose (Herpestes), and even the rare otter (Lutrina). Birds commonly found in the area of the national park include the white breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor), bee eater (Meropidae), yellow vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Eurasian blackbird (Turdus merula), and other species.
In 2003, the Nature and Parks Authority began setting up boxes for microbats (Microchiroptera). These boxes were populated by bats, apparently of the Kuhl's pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii) species. The microbat population in Israel has been considerably reduced because of damage to their habitats, and the boxes have set up in order to try and help this population recover.
How to get here: The national park is in the town of Bet She'an, and there are signs directing visitors to the site at the entrances to town.
Bus 412 from Jerusalem to Afula – details from Egged Information
The "She'an Nights" audio-visual presentation – a magical nighttime experience
Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm
Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm
On the eve of New Year, the Day of Atonement, and Passover: 8 am – 1 pm
The "She'an Nights" presentation takes place Monday – Thursday from March 10 – end of October, every half hour from nightfall. Conditional on weather conditions and by advance arrangement.
On other days of the week, tours for groups can be reserved by advance arrangement.
Adult – NIS 28
Child – NIS 14
Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 23, child – NIS 13
Adult: NIS 55
Child: NIS 45
Subscriber: NIS 28
Student / regular soldier: NIS 45
*3639 She'an Nights – call between 8 am – 4 pm
Dogs may not be brought into the park
In the Bet She'an National Park adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include: