We already know there are plenty of reasons to visit Israel, but this week, one more reason got added to the list. On July 5, Beit She’arim National Park was named Israel’s ninth UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site:
Referring to the limestone catacomb-filled necropolis as “a landmark of Jewish renewal,” UNESCO committee members decided that the park fulfills two of 10 possible criteria as a World Heritage Site: it “exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology…” and it “bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.”
Beit She’arim (House of Gates), southeast of Haifa in the Lower Galilee, was originally a granary and became the primary Jewish burial ground outside Jerusalem between the second and fourth centuries CE, following the failure of the second Jewish revolt against Roman rule.
According to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the site is the oldest and most densely populated cemetery in Israel, and is similar to the catacombs in Rome.