Day 10: Bet She'an National Park

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Kibbutz Sheluchot Country Inn
What I did
Bet She'an National Park

Flag of Israel  , Northern District,
Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breakfast was amazing again at the 1885 B&B – bowls of fresh cherries, apricots, honeydew, apple, shredded carrots, cranberries, an omelet with onions and mushrooms with sides of lox & capers and pancakes.  All beautifully presented including edible pansy flowers for garnish.  A feast for the eyes and our tummies.

Maayan sends us off with kumquats and lemons from her garden.  We also tasted white blackberries that are really sweet.  The 1885 is a romantic place, warm and welcoming, and it has been a great place for our 3 nights in the Galilee.

The expression "you use it or you lose it" was a lesson learned today.  I thought I was a good driver, but coming close to two car accidents today showed me that I've lost some basic skills! 

1.     Navigation.  Using a map?  Figuring out when to turn right or left?  Letting the driver know that a turn is coming up?  Tracking our progress so we don’t go too far before realizing we made a wrong turn?  Geez.  I’ve become so reliant on my car navigation system, that I haven’t done this type of navigation in years!  We figured out that Harvey is an ace at this, using the Google maps on his phone.  You can use your imagination as to what situations my navigation skills got us into – the automated voice of navigation systems is better than me!  

Some learning takes time.  Before we got started this morning, we both looked at the map and determined that all we had to do was to drive on Route 90 straight to our destination today, Bet Shean.  Since it was that easy, once we got on Route 90, I enjoyed the scenery and our chatter and didn’t monitor our progress.  At some point, Harvey says he thinks we’re on the way to Tel Aviv, which is east and we want to go south.  So we pull off and take out the cell phone with Google maps and sure enough we somehow should have made a left turn to stay on Route 90.  We make a u-turn and neither of us say anything to each other.   This is situation is a variation of another driving issue from yesterday.   At some point I say that I’ll be more attentive and Harvey remembers that on the exact same area in the road four years ago we had a situation where we didn’t have to say anything because we both knew – and saying so would just make it worse – 4 years ago!  Life is a process of learning and re-learning all over again!

Now, my driving?

2.     Traffic circles.  The rule of the road is if another car is in the circle, you must yield before entering.  Where I drive in south Florida, there aren’t any traffic circles.  But what we do have is aggressive drivers, so I have had to learn to stop myself from nudging myself into the traffic circle rather than yielding and waiting until the cars already in the circle have passed our car.  Our driving habits are ingrained us – almost like a cultural imprint – and it takes conscious thought to override auto-pilot!  Let me say conscious thought and Harvey’s reminders!

Bet Shean!  Early in our trip planning, we decided that we wanted to revisit this site.  On our last trip, we had walked in without a clue as to what we were seeing and were simply amazed.  The brochure given at admission  is like a teaser giving a brief overview yet there is so much more about this fascinating place!  Excavations have uncovered 20 levels of occupation dating back to the 5th millennium B.C.E – 7,000 years ago.  Elements of these occupations have been restored and others are in the process of being restored.  It is one of the few ancient cities in the world whose history is revealed both by the remnants unearthed today and through chronicles and other writings denoting its existence.

Bet Shean is a large site.  You can get a feel for it in the slideshow.  Here are some personal comments:

We are determined to walk to the top of the Tell!  This is an accomplishment on two accounts: 1) we had passed on this four years ago and we were determined to get there this time 2) the temperature is close to 97 degrees!  We are rewarded by seeing the oldest part of Bet Shean and also a great view looking down at the Roman excavated section of Bet Shean.  As we gaze at one of the vistas, Harvey says that the view probably hasn’t changed much in thousands of years.  We are surprised how much more excavation has been done in the past four years – amazing.

We spend about three hours walking around in the afternoon and then check into our Kibbutz lodging that is within a 10 minute drive of the Bet Shean National Park.   At check-in we ask for restaurant possibilities.  Unfortunately, the woman only speaks Hebrew.  We thought she said that she would ask someone to call us who spoke English, but we never did make contact with that person.  Instead, Harvey goes on-line to TripAdvisor and makes a choice for schwarma and felafel that is our favorite Israeli food.    We have the address and Google maps and we think finding it will be a piece of cake.  Wrong.  I can’t say how many times we drove by the restaurant as we were trying to locate it.  At one point we gave up and went to the schwarma stand where we had lunch; they were closing, but said that the place we were looking for, Shipudei Hakikar, is really good.  They give us directions.  When someone says to us “you can’t miss it”, we know by now that if anyone can miss it, that’s us!  We stop and ask directions a second time and Harvey is able to communicate in Hebrew.  Everyone knows the restaurant and says it is good!  This time we get a clue that we are around the corner from it and that it is across the street from the police station.  When we see the police station, we park the car and walk on the street.  Aha!  The name of the restaurant is in large neon lights IN HEBREW!  Imagine, signs in Hebrew in Israel.  What’s a tourist to do?   So, if you want to eat at Shipudei Hakikar, look for the police station, park your car, and then you will see the restaurant across from the police station.  Simple!  Tip:  There are two restaurants called Shipudei Hakikar.  The very informal and excellent schwarma and pitas are across the street from the police station.  On the same side of the police station is a fuller menu restaurant of the same name and ownership.

Fortunately we left plenty of time for dinner, so even with the mishagoss of finding the restaurant, we arrive for the showing of Shean Nights Sound and Light Show at the appointed time of 7:30 PM for our 8 PM reservation, the first show of the evening.  An advanced reservation is required since in addition to the performance there is a group walking tour.  I had requested an English tour but was told there were none during the month of June.

When we left Bet Shean in the afternoon we asked about where to go for the light show in the evening.  In the encounter, the park staff person suggested that we say that we have reservations in English.  So when we showed up 30 minutes before the first show of the evening, we asked for English.  At first the response was that everything was in Hebrew, but then they offered to do something that was a real accommodation.  They offered to show the English movie for us at 7:50 PM when they test the sound system.  Then, we will have to wait and watch the Hebrew version of the movie and then we can go on a Hebrew walking tour.  It “sounds” great to us and are very appreciative.  We ended up with a private showing – and because it was private, I could take photos.  

We followed along with the group on the walking tour, but after awhile we decided to walk around the lit areas ourselves.  It was a waste to stay with the group if you can’t understand Hebrew.  By ourselves in the evening light combined with special landscape lights in Bet Shean was a one-of-a-kind experience.

Here are some tips for visiting “She’an Nights”: 

-      When making reservation, ask for an English speaking group. If this is not being offered on your date, request nicely if there is any possibility that one could be arranged.

      Make reservation for 1st showing of the movie.  For our date (it depends upon time of sundown), it was 8 PM.  Arrive 30 minutes early and ask nicely for English movie.  It’s 10 minutes long.  In our case, they were really nice to us and for the evening sound test at 7:50 PM they did it in English.  Because we were the only ones, we could even take photos.

      One of the park staff had said that in advance they should have booked an English tour after the movie.  As it turned out there were a number of non-Hebrew speaking people on the walking tour.

      The group walk through the lit sections would have been really good, but it was a waste of time since we didn’t understand a word.  We spoke with some other tourists who also didn’t speak Hebrew.  We decided to just walk around the lit areas – there really is no need to stay with your group.

      Important – if you are not on an English tour, at least read about Bet Shean a little before so have a sense of the history before coming – or come in the afternoon and walk through with a guide book

Click here for more photos!
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