Beit Alpha Synagogue

Top choice archaeological site

in Jezreel & Beit She'an Valleys

No one was more surprised than the members of Kibbutz Heftzibah when they went out to dig an irrigation channel in 1928 and uncovered a stunning, Byzantine-era (6th-century) mosaic floor. Further excavation revealed the rest of the Beit Alpha Synagogue, whose extraordinarily mosaics are vividly evocative of ages past.

The three mosaic panels depict traditional Jewish symbols such as a Torah ark, two menorahs (seven-branched candelabras) and a shofar (ram’s horn) alongside a spectacular, 12-panel Zodiac circle, a pagan element if there ever was one. At the bottom, above inscriptions in Aramaic and Hebrew, Jacob (holding a knife) is shown about to sacrifice his son Isaac, alongside the ram that God (represented by a hand from heaven) sent to be sacrificed in the boy's stead; each character is labelled in Hebrew. A 13-minute film (in six languages), projected above and onto the mosaic, provides an excellent introduction. Wheelchair accessible.

Kibbutz Heftzibah is 8km west of Beit She’an along Rte 669. Superbus bus 412 (twice hourly except Friday night and during the day Saturday) goes both to Beit She’an (3.80NIS, 11 minutes) and Afula (7.40NIS, 20 minutes).