April 17th 2013
An ancient pathway from Egypt to the Euphrates River, King’s Highway was of crucial importance in the Middle East. Used by the Israelites, Nabataeans, Romans and others, it was a vital trade route in the region. Today, the route is a great starting point for visiting an ancient synagogue, the Sea of Galilee, Roman and Byzantine ruins, and one of the world’s most beautiful national parks.
Begin your journey in Tiberias, one of Israel’s four holy cities, and a place not to be missed on your tour of Israel. Founded in the 1st century on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias has long been a center of Jewish commerce, leisure, study, politics and culture. Many famous sages are buried here, which allows modern day visitors an opportunity to connect with ancient Judaism. Visit the tomb of 12th century Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as the Rambam or Maimonides, in the center of the city, or pay homage to Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel.
For a glimpse into the history and archeology of the region, visit Beit Shean National Park, which holds the remains of one of Israel’s oldest settlements from the 5th century BCE. After being ruled by the Israelites, Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and others, the city was hit by a destructive earthquake in 749 CE and mostly destroyed.
Today, visitors can meander through the well-preserved remains that demonstrate this city’s incredible history. Walk through the incredible 7,000-seat Roman amphitheater where gladiatorial battles took place, stroll through the colonnaded Paladius Street, and check out the Byzantine bathhouse to be immersed in Beit Shean’s awe-inspiring history.
Another wondrous site in the region is the Byzantine Beit Alfa Synagogue, which was built in the 5th century during the reign of Roman Emperor Justin I. Discovered in the 1920s by members of nearby Kibbutz Hefzibah, the synagogue provides an unparalleled glimpse into ancient Jewish practices. The synagogue’s impressive mosaics, which depict the binding of Isaac, a synagogue scene and a zodiac wheel, are particularly remarkable.
After all the site seeing, a stop at the idyllic Gan HaShlosha National Park, or Sahne, is a welcome reprieve. Named one of the world’s 20 most beautiful parks by Time Magazine, it truly is an oasis. Children and adults alike will enjoy frolicking in its natural springs, which remain a perfect 82 degrees Fahrenheit year round. And be sure not to miss the natural Jacuzzi that is created beneath the park’s temperate waterfall.
Finally, complete this portion of your tour to Israel by ascending to holy Jerusalem.
End the day with a beautiful drive through the Jordan Valley towards Jerusalem and stop at Mount Scopus to say the blessing of “Shehechiyanu” to celebrate the joyous occasion of entering the holy capital.