Bet Guvrin Tourist Attractions
Situation and characteristicsThe kibbutz of Bet Guvrin lies in the western Judaean hills, 36km/22mi east of Ashqelon on the road to Jerusalem via Qiryat Gat and Bet Shemesh. It was established on the ruins of an Arab village in 1949 to protect Israel's frontier with Jordan and given an old Hebrew name.HistoryIn the sixth century B.C. Bet Guvrin was an outpost of the Edomite capital of Mareshah, 2km/1.25mi away. In the first century B.C., under Roman rule, it developed into an important fortified settlement, to which the Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211) gave the name of Eleutheropolis ("Free City"). In Byzantine times it was the administrative center of the largest region in Palestine, which extended as far west as Gaza. The Crusaders built the castle of Gibelin here to protect the southern approach to Jerusalem. After being captured by Saladin in 1187 it was recovered by the Crusaders but finally fell to the Mamelukes in 1244.
In 1921 excavations on a site 1km/0.75mi southeast of the village of Bet Guvrin brought to light two mosaic pavements from Christian churches of the fifth-sixth centuries with representations of deer, birds, the Seasons and a hunting scene.The excavators also found a third century synagogue. Among the remains (now mostly in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem) were a column with a Hebrew inscription and a capital carved with a seven-branched candlestick.By the roadside is a building of the Crusader period which was occupied by Arabs until 1948.