Roman and Byzantine city with the high mound that was Biblical Beit She’an

Story and photos: Henry Gild

With great excitement, I was awakened on Wednesday morning by my alarm clock at 4.30 am. Today I was going on an ESRA outing, not my usual hike but something restful. Note the early wakeup, but I had to drive to Ashdod so as to catch the 5.52 am train to arrive in Tel Aviv central station before 7.00 am to get the ESRA bus.

It is now after 8 pm and I have arrived safely home. It is hard to say that it was a restful day; it was fairly tiring, but a well enjoyed day. Cecily Hanson in charge of logistics did an excellent job, with no “Jewish times”. We left on time and stops were according to schedule.

Beryl Ratzer was our guide. She is very well informed and, the main reason for my joining. She enlarged and improved my knowledge of all the places visited, taking into consideration that after 50+ years in Israel, I had already visited all the places at some time or another.

For Mount Gilboa the timing was perfect. We might not have seen all the 3000 Gilboa irises, but we saw some beautiful examples. Although it was not a walking tour, everyone managed to do the circular route, almost an hour’s walk.

Our next stop was the Beit Shean National Park. Beryl took us on a walk through the bathhouse and the main street of the excavations, explaining how much dirt had been removed, and stones returned to give an idea of how things were from the 5th millennium.

Underfloor heating system at Beit She’an

Also, we saw the collection of stone that would at some later date find a place in the rebuilding of the ancient city which had been built, destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again by an earthquake. We then walked through the theater, which was all in all extremely interesting, and a visit that I could recommend to anyone, but with a guide if possible. We were lucky as the weather was fair and cool, and Beit Shean can be very hot.

By now it was lunch time, and everyone felt the need for a break, so in the shade at the entrance we pulled out sandwiches, salads or whatever pleased us and had a welcome break.

Now to our third stop: the 6th century synagogue at Beit Alpha. The mosaic floor is too magnificent for words and the film that followed gave us all a wonderful explanation of all the various pictures.

On the way out, we stopped at Kibbutz Yisrael, or more correctly, at the Tel. Once again, Beryl in her special way managed to bring alive a bit of biblical history with a few of us reading the parts about the trading of the vineyards and land, as maybe something to remind us about present-day problems between the Jews and the Arabs.

In conclusion, I would like to add, that these ESRA trips, or similar ones, take place once a month and I hope I find myself on the next one.

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About the author

Henry Gild

Henry Gild was born in 1940 in South Africa, went to SACS. He was a keen Scout, acquiring the Queens badge. Henry studied agriculture at Elsenberg College, a faculty of Stellenbosh. 

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