Somewhat reminiscent of the Sanhedrin Tombs in Jerusalem, these catacombs are located on the main road from Haifa that heads toward Afula (the principal town of the Jordan Valley).

In the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries, the town of Beit She’arim was the home of the Supreme Religious Council, the Sanhedrin, as well as headquarters of the famous Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi (Judah the Prince), the compiler of the Mishnah. Many learned and famous Jews were laid to rest in this, the town’s cemetery, a network of caves beneath a tranquil grove of cypress and olive trees. Over the centuries, however, the tombs were destroyed and the caves looted. The town was abandoned, and earth and rock covered the entrances to the catacombs as if they had never existed. They were unearthed in 1926 but only fully explored after the War of Independence.

Enter the burial chambers through an opening in the rock or a stone door. Inside you’ll see sarcophagi carved with rams’ horns and lions’ heads, menorahs, and other examples of Roman-era Jewish folk art. We think catacomb 20 is the most interesting, with its legible inscriptions, carvings, and interesting relics.

The entire site here is well tended, with a parking lot, visitor facilities, and an outdoor cafe. To better understand what you’ll be seeing, take in the introductory film before heading down into the catacombs.