The ancient synagogue found in a small national park in Kibbutz Beit Alfa dates back to the sixth century and the reign of Roman Emperor Justin I. A Greek inscription attributes the construction of the synagogue to “Marianos and his son Hanina” – the same two men credited with the construction of the nearby Beit She’an synagogue.
The highlight of a visit to the Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park is the opportunity to examine the synagogue’s intricate and well-preserved mosaic floors. The top, southern floor panel depicts a synagogue scene surrounding the Torah shrine. Below this image, the northern panel illustrates the biblical story in which Abraham agreed to obey God’s command and sacrifice his son on an altar, only to be stopped at the last moment by an angel – a story which has featured significantly in Jewish art and literature across the centuries. Between these two panels, in the center of the floor, lies a Hebrew zodiac wheel. Featuring the Greek sun god Helios at the circle’s center, the zodiac wheel testifies to the strong Hellenistic influence in the region and raises debate among scholars regarding the extent to which the Jewish faith allowed itself to adapt to the Greek presence by which it was surrounded at the time.