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Synagogue Overview

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Synagogue Overview
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A view looking south southeast at the mosaic floor of the sixth century A.D synagogue at Bet Alpha.

The synagogue faces towards Jerusalem and is a basilica in shape with a central nave and two side aisles.  There may have been (womens') balconies over each of the two side aisles.

The entrance to the synagogue, with dedicatory inscriptions, is to the left.

Beyond that, in the central nave, the horizontal panel depicts the "Binding of Isaac" by Abraham (Genesis 22).  In the central panel is a square with the four seasons at each corner, and a Zodiac that surrounds a circle in which the sun god Helios is riding in a chariot that is drawn by four horses.  In the far panel is a depiction of the "ark" in which Torah scrolls were kept.  This is surrounded by Menorahs (menoroth) and other Jewish objects associated with the long destroyed Temple in Jerusalem

In the upper right is a raised platform called a bema.  It is approached by three steps and there there was probably a chest (ark) that housed the Torah scrolls.  There was also a repository in the floor in which 36 Byzantine coins were found.

The synagogue dates to the sixth century A.D. and was destroyed by an earthquake. It was discovered in 1929 and excavated by E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Today it is located on the grounds of Kibbuktz Hetzi–Ba.

The site of Bet Alpha is located about 5 miles northwest of Beit She'an at the foot of the northern slope of Mount Gilboa, in the Harod Valley.