Monday, June 3, 2013

Israel Journal IV: Bet She'an



Photograph of Cardo at Bet She’an National Park by Hallie Cohen
Bet She’an is like Pompeii. One day an earthquake struck and brought life to a halt. Although previously excavated as far back as l921, starting in l989 large scale excavation began which uncovered the city from the mud in which it had been perfectly preserved. And the question the inevitably overheated visitor will ask is, how could such an oppressively hot spot have become the site of a huge metropolis? Bet She’an was at the center of the two great trade routes between the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan River Valley. What remains is a wonderful study in what might be called the Roman franchise. You had your Roman theater which would be the equivalent of our Cineplex today and the amphitheater which was the equivalent of say Yankee Stadium. When the Romans did things they did them right and you had aqueducts that provided running water for the baths and latrines, the latter of  whose use was taxed under Hadrian. You had a main street which was called the Cardo. Another thoroughfare, the Decumanus, allowed for pedestrians and traffic (chariots instead of cars) and after a hard days work, the men all retired to the brothel, a tradition which Italy’s former premier Berlusconi  reputedly kept alive, during his reign. When you decided to take off from Bet She’an to another part of the empire, you took the Pax Romana, which would be like climbing on the Interstate. So what do we learn from a visit to a carefully preserved piece of antiquity. Plus ca change,  plus c’est la meme chose. 

1 comment:

  1. jylle benson-gaussJune 4, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Ain't it the truth! I've noticed that individual lives seem to have an arc--or maybe vector would be more accurate--which is both a journey and a transformation. History seems more like a loop, doesn't it?

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