Shivta National Park


Created Amir Aloni

Meet Shivta National Park

Shivta National Park showcases the impressive remains of a Byzantine city that existed in the heart of a desert area with no natural water sources whatsoever. The splendid churches, streets, and homes are astonishing even today.

Points of interest

  • The remains of a partially-restored Byzantine city
  • Byzantine-era churches
  • Reconstruction of an orchard using Nabatean growing methods
  • The remains of columbaria (dovecotes)

detail

The Colt delegation house – a stone building to the south of the parking area, built by the excavation delegation from New York University and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, headed by Harris Dunscombe Colt (son of the well-known American gun manufacturer). The delegation excavated at Shivta between 1934 and 1936.

The Western Gate – Shivta was not surrounded by a wall, and no fortifications were found, but the outermost houses of the city were built in a line, in the form of a city wall. The entrance of the street to the west of the city, called the Western Gate, serves as a kind of gate.

The Stable House is a large residential house built around an inner courtyard. A flight of stairs shows that there was another residential story. In one of the rooms, water troughs and mangers are incorporated in the walls, indicating that this wing of the house was used for livestock. The average size of houses in Shivta, including the courtyard, is around 360 m².

The Pool House – the house, bordering on the public pools of Shivta, is an example of the high building standards of the Shivta homes. The lower part of the walls, up to around 2 m, is built of hard, roughly-hewn limestone, while the upper part of the walls are built of soft, well-worked limestone. The thickness of the walls is 70 cm, providing the houses with excellent insulation. In the corner of the courtyard the opening of a cistern was found, a fixture in the Shivta houses. Another characteristic is the geometric decorations on the lintels and bases of the entrances.

The Pools Square – a square in which there are two large pools (only one of which has been excavated). The waters of the pools came from an aqueduct at a distance of 2.5 km from the city, and then through channels that can still be seen today. The cisterns in the courtyards of the houses were private, but the pools were used by the general public.

The Southern Church – the Southern Church was apparently built over a Nabatean-era ritual building. The prayer hall is in the form of a basilica – a nave, separated from 2 side halls (aisles) by two rows of columns. The nave is paved with marble slabs, while the aisles are paved with limestone. Two square rooms were built alongside the apse, as was customary in the Negev cities of the 4th century. Later, apparently at the beginning of the 6th century, apses with small niches were built in place of these rooms, in which the relics of saints were placed in special reliquaries. To the north of the church a large baptistery was built. Both infants and adults were baptized in baptisteries of this kind, and these would have included some members of the nomadic population wanting to convert to Christianity.

The Mosque – to the north of the baptistery the remains of a hall were found, with two rows of columns, three columns in each row. The mosque presumably served the Muslims who settled in Shivta, or Shivta residents who converted to Islam. At the entrance to the mosque is a stone step inscribed with a cross, which appears to prove that there were no Christians living in Shivta when the mosque was in existence.

The Governor’s House – the title of the “Governor’s House” was given to a private residential building that incorporates a tall tower, which has survived to a height of almost 6 m. The ceiling of the tower is almost twice as high as that of a regular home, and on the assumption that there were three stories, when complete the tower would have risen to a height of 12 m. The lintel decorations of the restored entrance remain in excellent condition, as is the original stone slab roofing of the first story.

The Northern Square – according to the buildings in and around the large square, it may be assumed that it was the focus of Shivta’s social and economic life. In the eastern part of the square a wine press was found, and to the north of it a building with a large courtyard, with stone benches along the walls. In another room of the house, more stone benches were found. This building may have served as the Shivta town hall, in which people gathered to discuss the affairs of the moment.

The Northern Church – in the large church of Shivta, the walls have been preserved to a height of 10 m. Inscribed on the entrance gate are the letters alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, hinting at the words of Jesus: “I am the beginning and the end”. The church is built in the style of a basilica. The prayer hall is entered through a square atrium, surrounded by two-story halls and rooms, apparently used as a monastery. The prayer hall and some of the walls were faced with marble. In the two side apses niches were found, in which chests containing sacred objects were kept. Through a side entrance in the southern side hall it is possible to enter two chapels, one of them a baptism chapel, in which a large, cruciform baptismal font was found, entirely carved from a single stone. In the chapel there were marble tombstones of the religious figures who were buried there.

The Central Church – a relatively small church, apparently incorporated in an existing residential area. The three entrances to the prayer hall face directly onto the street.

The Vaulted House – the Vaulted House is a very impressive example of stone slab roofing at Shivta, the slabs laying on stone vaults that have been preserved in their entirety.
The large winepress – the winepress contains a large treading area, paved with stone tiles. Around the winepress are separate chambers, in which the vine-growers laid their grapes and waited for their turn.

The reconstructed orchard – the orchard lies some 700 m to the north of Shivta. It can be reached on foot along a clear path, leaving from the Northern Church. The orchard reconstructs an ancient agricultural farm, and the trees planted in it – carob, fig, almond, plum, olive, pomegranate, pistachio, peach, apricots and grapevines – receive all the water that they need from rainwater diverted to the orchard, just as they did in ancient Shivta.

Dovecotes (columbaria) – on the agricultural fringes of Shivta there were, in the past, four or five dovecotes in the form of circular or square stone towers rising to a height of 8 to 10 m. Thousands of doves were bred in each of these towers, producing large quantities of droppings, used to improve the soil. Today it is possible to see the remains of two dove towers. The western columbarium lies on a hill some 300 m to the north-west of Shivta (and 100 m to the west of the access road to the site). The southern columbarium is on a hill to the south of Zetan Stream, some 400 m south of Shivta.

Shivta National Park

Useful Information
Opening Hours
Getting there
How to get here

Drive west from Tlalim Junction towards Nitsana (Road 211), and after 19 km, at Shivta Junction, turn south, driving 9 km to the site.


For those coming from Road 40 (Beersheba – Shizafon), from Tlalim Junction continue 30 km westward on Road 211. At the junction, beside the filling station, drive 10 km southward.


In Waze, type: Shivta National Park

News

Nearby national parks and nature reserves

Shivta National Park

Shivta National Park

Shivta National Park showcases the impressive remains of a Byzantine city that e...

En Avdat National Park

En Avdat National Park

At the foot of Midreshet Ben Gurion, the Tsin Stream has carved out a deep and i...

Avdat National Park

Avdat National Park

At the foot of Midreshet Ben Gurion, the Tsin Stream has carved out a deep and i...

Makhtesh Ramon - Nature Reserve and Visitors Center

Makhtesh Ramon - Nature Reserve and Visitors Center

The Visitors Center offers an experience combining the life story of the Israeli...

Mamshit National Park

Mamshit National Park

Mamshit National Park contains the remains of a Nabatean city from Roman and Byz...

Tel Beer Sheva National Park

Tel Beer Sheva National Park

Tel Be’er Sheva, the area in which the forefathers of the Jewish nation (Abraham...

HaBsor National Park (Eshkol Park)

HaBsor National Park (Eshkol Park)

HaBsor National Park is a green area on the banks of the Besor Stream. In the he...

Tel Arad National Park

Tel Arad National Park

Tel Arad is one of the most important archaeological sites in Israel, on which w...

The Masada National Park

The Masada National Park

In the days of the Great Revolt, the last of the rebels against Rome entrenched ...

Bet Guvrin National Park

Bet Guvrin National Park

Bet Guvrin National Park is at the very heart of the "Land of a Thousand Caves” ...

Ashkelon National Park

Ashkelon National Park

Ashkelon National Park is a fascinating antiquities site, a park in which to spe...

En Gedi Nature Reserve

En Gedi Nature Reserve

En Gedi is the biggest oasis in Israel. It has springs and waterfalls, and flowi...

Herodium Park

Herodium Park

At Herodium, King Herod challenged the forces of nature. In the first century BC...

En Hemed National Park

En Hemed National Park

A pearl of nature in the center of the country

Castel National site

Castel National site

The hill rising over Road 1 has become a symbol of the struggle to break through...

City of David National Park

City of David National Park

One of the most important sites in the Jerusalem Walls National Park is the City...

Palmahim Beach National Park

Palmahim Beach National Park

Hof Palmahim National Park is well known to beach lovers as a vacation and recre...

Nebi Samuel Park

Nebi Samuel Park

Nebi Samuel Park is a fascinating combination of antiquities, agricultural terra...

Enot Tsukim Nature Reserve

Enot Tsukim Nature Reserve

Magical pools and abundant vegetation at the foot of cliffs rising in the heart ...

Hay-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve

Hay-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve

This is where a revolutionary project has been established for the restoration o...

En Prat Nature Reserve

En Prat Nature Reserve

En Prat is a spring of gushing water, rising in a spectacularly beautiful desert...

Qumran Park

Qumran Park

Qumran National Park lies at the foot of the vertical cliff of the Judean Desert...

Good Samaritan Museum

Good Samaritan Museum

The museum is just off the highway connecting Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

Baptismal Site on the Jordan River - Qasr al-Yahud

Baptismal Site on the Jordan River - Qasr al-Yahud

The baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan River, Qasr al-Yahud, is the site ...

Yarkon National Park

Yarkon National Park

The Yarkon National Park is divided into two parts: The Yarkon river source spri...

Apollonia National Park (Tel Arsuf)

Apollonia National Park (Tel Arsuf)

Apollonia National Park is on a kurkar (calcareous sandstone) promontory facing ...

Mount Gerizim

Mount Gerizim

The Mount of Blessings – at the top of Mt Grizim the remains of the ancient Sacr...

Caesarea National Park

Caesarea National Park

“He chose for himself a lost city on the sea shore, named “Straton’s Tower”, bec...

Taninim Stream Nature Reserve

Taninim Stream Nature Reserve

Taninim Stream Nature Reserve A wonderful coastal waterscape

Tel Megiddo National Park

Tel Megiddo National Park

Megiddo was one of the strongest and most important cities of Canaan. The remain...

Gan HaShlosha (Sahne) National Park

Gan HaShlosha (Sahne) National Park

Gan Hashlosha National Park is a well-known water park to the west of the Valley...

Bet Alpha Synagogue National Park

Bet Alpha Synagogue National Park

The zodiac mosaic and the story of the offering of Isaac

Dor HaBonim Beach Nature Reserve

Dor HaBonim Beach Nature Reserve

The nature reserve is a beautiful and picturesque beach, a coastal strip with mo...

Ma

Ma'ayan Harod National Park

A refreshing recreational park at the foot of Mt. Gilboa, where the Harod spring...

Bet Shean National Park

Bet Shean National Park

Bet She’an National Park houses the spectacular ruins of the glory that was the ...

Bet Shearim National Park

Bet Shearim National Park

​The importance, value and renown of Bet She’arim were due to the fact that it w...

Kokhav HaYarden National Park

Kokhav HaYarden National Park

Kokhav HaYarden National Park introduces visitors to the Belvoir Fortress – a co...

Mount Carmel National Park and Nature Reserve

Mount Carmel National Park and Nature Reserve

“Thy head upon thee is like Carmel”, said the poet in the Song of Songs, and ind...

Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve

Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve

The Hay-Bar on the Carmel is devoted to the raising of endangered and extinct an...

Tzipori National Park

Tzipori National Park

Tzipori was once the capital of the Galilee, the seat of the Sanhedrin and the p...

En Afek Nature Reserve

En Afek Nature Reserve

The En Afek Nature Reserve preserves swampland and waterway sources the majority...

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Hamat Tiberias National Park

The Tiberias Hot Springs National Park displays one of the most spectacular mosa...

Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve

Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve

A vertical cliff towering magnificently over the Sea of Galilee and looking out ...

Kursi National Park

Kursi National Park

​Kursi National Park contains the impressive remains of a monastery and church f...

Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) National Park

Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) National Park

National park and remains of a fishing village from the time of the Second Templ...

Yehiam Fortress National Park

Yehiam Fortress National Park

The ruins of a large and impressive fortress, combining buildings from the Crusa...

Korazim National Park

Korazim National Park

A Jewish town in a basalt landscape overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Akhziv National Park

Akhziv National Park

Blue bays and rocky crevices, sandstone ridges and rare plants, sea turtle nesti...

Meshushim Stream Nature Reserve

Meshushim Stream Nature Reserve

The Meshushim Stream in the Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve offers visitors breat...

Gamla Nature Reserve

Gamla Nature Reserve

​The Gamla nature reserve has a rare combination, both nature and scenery and a ...

Amud Stream Nature Reserve

Amud Stream Nature Reserve

In Nahal Amud Nature Reserve there is a combination of a unique form of nature a...

Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve

Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve

Deep ravines cross the center of the rocky Golan Heights, through which waterfal...

Baram National Park

Baram National Park

An ancient synagogue in a Galilee landscape

Tel Hazor National Park

Tel Hazor National Park

​Tel Hatsor is identified with the biblical Hatsor – perhaps the greatest of the...

Hula Nature Reserve

Hula Nature Reserve

The Hula Nature Reserve is a site of world-wide importance for water birds and i...

Horshat Tal National Park

Horshat Tal National Park

Horshat Tal (Dew Grove) is a 700 dunams nature and recreation resort, with broad...

Snir Stream Nature Reserve

Snir Stream Nature Reserve

The Snir Stream (Hatsbani) is the longest of the Jordan River tributaries. The s...

Tel Dan Nature Reserve

Tel Dan Nature Reserve

The Dan Stream rises in the Tel Dan nature reserve – the largest and most import...

Ayun Stream Nature Reserve

Ayun Stream Nature Reserve

In the Nahal Ayun Nature Reserve, where the stream passes from the Ayun Valley i...

Hermon Stream (Banias) Nature Reserve

Hermon Stream (Banias) Nature Reserve

The largest waterfall in Israel is in the Nahal Hermon Nature Reserve (Banyas). ...

Nimrod Fortress National Park

Nimrod Fortress National Park

Nimrod’s Castle, lying at the foot of Mt. Hermon, is the largest castle remainin...

Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve

Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve

The most beautiful marine reserve in the world – colorful gardens beneath the se...

Ma

Ma'ayan Harod National Park

A refreshing recreational park at the foot of Mt. Gilboa, where the Harod spring...

Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve

Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve

The Reserve encompasses an extensive natural woodland area and the largest and m...

We’ll help you plan your visit

X