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beit shearim sanhedrin Beth-Shearim was a  Jewish town in Roman and Byzantine times. It was mostly famous for being the burial of Rabbi Judah “the prince”, who codified the Mishnah. It was also the sear of the Sanhedrin for a while. Despite its significance in Jewish history, Beit Shearim was abandoned in the middle ages,  and its location was forgotton.

The Sanhedrin

Deuteronomy 17:8-9 states that in cases of legal issues that are not solved in the municipal court, one should appeal to a higher court. Such a higher court is not documented in the Old Testament, but in the Second Temple to Talmudic Periods (5th century BCE to 5th Century CE), when Judaism was highly influenced by the Hellenism, we have good record of a higher Jewish court called “Sanhedrin“.  The term is Greek, and it literally means “sitting together”.

According to ancient Jewish sources the “Sanhedrin” had a lower court, with 23 members, and a higher court, having 71 members. The head of the higher court was a Nassi. In the time of the temple it was occasionally the high priest, and at times it was  the king.

During the period of the Temple, the higher court could only assemble in the “Hall of hewn stones” which was in the temple. After the destruction of the temple in 70 CE the Sanhedrin was resumed. It first operated in Yavne, and later in Usha, Sheferam, Beth-Shearim, Sepphoris, and Tiberias. Finally, the Sanhedrin was disbanded around 425 CE by the Byzantine Christian Authorities, and never resumed.


Beit Shearim Catacombs

The site was re-discovered by chance by Alexander Zaid in 1936, and later was excavated by several archaeological expeditions. Of the city itself little is known, although two structures that were unearthed may have functioned as synagogues in antiquity, and perhaps even as the seat of the Jewish “Sanhedrin”.

Around the city of big Jewish Necropolis was uncovered containing dozens of catacombs with hundreds of coffins, some still bearing decorative motifs and inscriptions. 

Book a Private Tour to Beth Shearim

Ancient Beth-Shearim is in Nortern Israel, not far from Sepphoris / Zippori

Contact us for a proposal of a full day tour of Galilee, that will also include a visit to Beth Shearim. 

Our Friends, Sergio and Rhoda presenting a discovery at Beth-Shearim

Points of Interest in the Area

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