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Travel: Harod River, and the ancient Town of Beit-Shean Israel, Feb 26/2021

The early morning drive toward the Gilboa mountain, from the Tabor plain area, were we slept the night before (view post) proceeded through the enchanting agriculturally cultivated landscape, of Jesrael and Harod valleys.

Once the cotton white mist drapery engulfing the valleys dissipated, most green fields, carpets of wild yellow chrysanthemum and Mustard flowers, as well as colorful air-balloons fluttered against the bluish clear sky.

Meeting an old time Friend

David's old friend from his Technion study days, who resides in Kibbutz Beit Hashita,

(at where the meeting point for the Beit Shean's guided tour was), kindly agreed to have us pay him, an early morning visit, ( 8;00am) before the tour's start,

About 5 years had passed since we last visited him, and there was much to compress

within the one short hour. We were quite shaken to find out that in 2019 a completely freak car accident had debilitated his life. A huge raging bull which was shut as a result of a feud over cattle, between 2 rivalry Arab tribes, run in amok.,

Charged by pain, the bull bursted out into the Um El Fahem main road, and landed on top of our friend's car. The car was totally smached by the enormous beast's wight and our friend suffered many fractures, massive pain and trauma.

He is much better now a days, but still goes on with after the accident, treatments.

Guided group Day Tour with our favorite Seffi Ben-Joseph

Nahal Harod Trail

The Trail In Hebrew

Nahal Harod, an all year running water stream of 35 km which originates at HaMoreh Hill and flows unto the Jordan river, passes through Jersrael valey to Harod valley and then to Beit Shean cleave..

It is the main drainage artery of the Harod Valley., and its source of water are 3 1 Agricultural industry usage spill 2 Spring water from the Gilboa foot hill 3 Rain flood water

Treated diluted water which is serviced by the local regional administration, separate from the national water service, is carried in open water tunnels all throughout the valley.

to supply agriculture irrigation and drinking needs.

Bridge Hopping

Visit to few of the Ancient Bridges and canyon, over and along the strong flow of Nahal Harod stream, was a wonderful revelation of our tour.

Starting at "Junction Mesilot" entry, off route 6667 the first bridge encountered was:

Kantara Bridge

The impressive bridge, which was built in the Muslim Mamluk era, and originally had three arches. carries an aqueduct that formerly brought water from Nahal Amal to cultivated fields north of Nahal Harod.

Travertine roots sediments, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, left by the leaked and evaporated water, off the aqueduct, is seen next to the streams shores.

One of arches of the bridge collapsed and was repaired in 1920 with concrete during the British Mandate. The River Administration has restored the bridge since, and this site, in which KKL-JNF has created an active recreation area,, was also where we had our breakfast under the large shady dome of Eucalyptus trees.

To banish the Crusaders, from whom the Mamluk took over the valley, and as not to have the Christians intrude again, the Mamluk, who built the bridges, also deliberately destroyed them in 1260, and by flooding the valley, assured that the marsh and Mosquito ridden area, would never be attractive, to any future invaders.

The Mamluks , not only had the upper hand over the Crusaders, but also over the Mongols campaign who swept the area, in 1260 on their way to conquer Egyptian territories.

Mongols invasion route

The Mamluk were by far, the only fair match in combat to the Mongols .

Both rivals mounted, rein-less and saddle-free horses, attaching onto them, only with their strong legs, thus having both hands free to shoots arrows.

However the Mongol horses, being not used to muddle in marsh-land had less advantage in battle, than the Mamluks.

Wodden bridge at Beit Shean Park

Situated adjacent to the western entrance to the town from Route 7078, the park extends along both banks of the Harod River, which are linked by a small wooden bridge. The River Trail crosses Route 7078 through a tunnel from Beit Shean Park eastwards and continues via the south-western bridge.

The Western Roman Bridge

This bridge crosses Nahal Harod at the western edge of the Beit Shean National Park. as part of the Hijaze rail project The bridge was renovated by the Ottomans, but the nine lowest courses of bricks have kept since the Roman period.

On the south-eastern side, the remains of a paved Roman street are visible, leading to the center of the town then called Scythopolis, Beside the bridge remains of the It-Tōm (“the twins”) flourmill – so called because it had two chimneys can be seen.

The Eastern Roman Bridge

This arched bridge is situated above Nahal Harod, at the eastern end of Beit Shean. Despite its name, the bridge was constructed in the Ottoman period, and it remained in use until the new bridge was built in 1994.

Jisr al-Maqtu'a, "the truncated/cut-off bridge", consist of a single arch spanning 25 feet and hung 50 feet above a stream,

This site, which probably took its name from the black patina the river waters have imparted to the adjacent cliffs, lies on the descent of Route 90, close to the Eastern Roman Bridge. At this point the riverbed drops 13 meters and its waters plunge down over the longest of the Harod waterfalls..

The area is constructed of 3 geological Rift valley platforms.

Beit Shean is situated on the top one.

The middle one consists of Travertine riverbed.

And the bottom one is that of the Rift valley floor.

A steel-made pedestrian bridge across the river, links the two sections of a recreation area,and the views upwards and downward facing the Jordan valley when walking on the bridge, are stunning.

More on the Bridges

Scythopolis -Beit Shean National Park

This site, which extends along both banks of the Harod River contains some of Israel’s most important antiquities, including that of Biblical Tel Beit Shean site, from whose walls the Philistines exposed the dead bodies of King Saul and his sons.

Still standing historical remains, and archeological excavations at the sites, free, close to the City Center, and for pay at the National Archeological Park, expose the splendors of, Mamluk, Ottoman and most that of the:

Byzantine Scythopolis - the Roman name of Beit Shean.

The Hellenistic city, Scythopolis, situated in the center of crossroads between the Jordan river valley and the Jezreel valley near its biblical ruins, became a major city with a population of about 35,000, in the period between First c and until its destruction when it was leveled out, by a massive earthquake in the 8th c.

As of 634 the early Arab period, Beit She'an-Scythopolis reverted to its Semitic name, being named Baysan in Arabic but went through decline process; .

A small fortress was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, to control the crossroads and to guard against Muslim penetration of their kingdom, but the city was never rebuilt.

Under Mamluk rule, Beit She'an was the principal town in the district of Damascus and a rail-way station, for the postal service, between Damascus and Cairo.

It was also the capital of sugar cane processing for the region

Ashtori Haparhi a 14th-century Jewish physician, and geographer who was a descended from a line of rabbis and was expelled from the south of France in 1306, lived, worked and died in 1335 in Beit Shean,

He was the author of the first Hebrew book on the geography of the Land of Israel, commonly known by the title book Kaftor va-Ferach , leaving most valuable reports on every Jewish settlement then,,

The decline of the Ottoman empire in the 19 c, caused the empire to loose its assets,

To finance grand modernization projects and ignite its failing economy, much needed funds had to be raised.

After years of forbidding Christian presence, by making the land of the country unattractive, the Sultan sold Giftlic land. to Christians, mainly Germans and Jews.

Any non-cultivated land for 9 years, which the Sultan reclaimed from its Muslims' owners, and which was mostly useless flooded marsh land, was used in the exchange..

Only a small Arab village existed ,and up to 1948 consisting of about 600o in population. In the days of the Turkish Sultan Abd al-Hamid II, Beit She'an experienced economic prosperity., and when the Hejaz railway connected the area in the 19thc with the larger Ottoman's territories, the city turned into an administrative center.. in 1948 the Gollani unit dispersed the about 1000 Christians left in Beit Shean ,around the country, after the Muslim majority population. run away from the city..

Structures from the Muslim period, that can be seen at the Beit- Shean National Park Hasaraya Building - Mueum Beit Shean Compound

on Sturman st in the old city

Hasaraya, built in 1892, is a beautiful Basalt bricks structure, which served as the Turkish local government house administrating the Sultan's land.

The building has a main entrance gate with a Turkish inscription and the Sultan's emblem.

Later, during the Mandate, the Saraya continued to function as the center of government.

Today, the Saraya is open for special events, most imminently, at the Summer Festival.

The Beit She’an Museum is located in the building and is dedicated to the modern history of the city from its establishment in 1949 till today.

Abbasid Mosque

The "40 Knights" Mosque, which stands now deserted and mal-kept, was built in the 15c and served for years as the the first Beit Shean national museum Only its tower is newer..

Elliptical hippodrome/amphitheater lies outside the park, near the boardwalk leading from the old city center of Beit She’an to the national park.

It was used by the Romans for pleasure events, games with animals, and gladiators,

It has underground rooms, where released wild beasts devour people and other animals.

More info on sites

Archeological National Park (enterance fees)

A theater, a street of shops, a large bath house, temples and public buildings for religious and pleasure functions, with a Tyche image - the goddess of fortune- decorating floor mosaic at a pleasure house, are all in full view.

Getting on Jordan valley Hwy 90, to drive up north, after visiting the last Roman bridge over the Harod stream's cleave, concluded the guided tour.

The stream runs between the 2 opposite mounds (Tel Tel Iztaba. and Tel Hussein) both dotted with archeological sites and now also by, abundant clusters of wild yellow chrysanthemum and mustard flowers, revealing how many more valuable ruins, are not yet, unearthed .

Remains of Byzantine Church with beautiful mosaic and old synagogues were found on the Iztaba mound across..

Apparently these yellow flowers tolerate ammonia deposits, and thrive in soil above human buried remains, thus are helpful to archeologists in detecting hidden secrets and treasures, of long gone human settlements and era.

Another great touring day with Seffi -our most knowledgeable guide- came to an end..

It was time to say goodby to the lovely group including to Noa , whom I re-discovered and wrote about our overdue encounter, in the post on the trip to Har Sedom

We continued to the enchanting mountainous Amirim vegetarian and vegan village,

at upper Galilee, for a weekend with the family, about which you can read in my next post... be tuned...




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