Sussita (Hippos) National Park

Photo by: Sarit Palachi Miara

Meet Sussita (Hippos) National Park

History, heritage and nature

Sussita (Hippos) National Park is situated on a hill on the slopes of the Golan Heights east of the Sea of Galilee and opposite Kibbutz Ein Gev, preserves magnificent remains of the ancient city of Hippos (“horse” in Greek), and in Hebrew, Sussita (sus means “horse” in Hebrew).

The ancient city, whose name connotes it had a connection to horses, developed in the Hellenistic period (beginning in the 300s BCE), reached its zenith in the Roman–Byzantine periods and continued to exist after the Muslim conquest, until it was destroyed by a major earthquake in 749 CE. After that, the site was abandoned and never resettled.


Main points of interest

  • A scenic site with views of the Sea of Galilee and the Lower Galilee
  • A unique concentration of flora and fauna
  • A unique concentration of greater and lesser mouse-tailed bats
  • A Hellenistic city parallel in time to the Hasmonean period
  • A Roman city – particularly impressive finds from the Roman–Byzantine periods, including the forum, the main city square, a huge water cistern in the center of the forum, remains of a magnificent basilica and an odeon (a small, roofed theater).

Points of Interest in Detail

Bats: the Rhinomomatidae family.
Greater mouse-tailed bat: Rhinopoma microphyllum
A fairly large fruit bat (weight: 16–45 gr; wingspan 66–73 mm): A Sarharo-Sindian species typical of dry habitats and oases. In Israel it is fairly common along the Syrian-African Rift from Eilat to Mount Hermon. It inhabits caves, ruins and abandoned buildings. In Israel colonies are known numbering hundreds to thousands of individuals, closely arranged
roof-tile-like, right next to each other. The summer caves are shallow and fairly exposed, and the greater mouse-tailed bat often sits in full daylight. Mating takes place in spring in the caves where thousands of individuals gather. A single offspring is born at the beginning of the summer, and is independent by autumn. During the spring and summer, mating pairs XXX in the colonies. This species migrates seasonally between summer and winter colonies. During the summer the trident bat accumulates a great deal of fat, more than 40% of its body weight accumulates in its tail membrane and around its thighs. In the winter, it hibernates in warm, damp caves and does not eat.

Main Archaeological Structures in the City:

  • The Forum – as in every Roman city, Sussita, too, had a forum in the center of the city, around which were the main public buildings. Social and commercial life was conducted in the forum; this was the place where people encountered each other on a daily basis. The forum was surrounded by walkways lined with gray columns (stoae) on both the east and the north. The stoae bore roofs that created shaded spaces.
  • The water cistern– There were no water sources in the city, and the inhabitants built an aqueduct about 24 km long. The final portion of the aqueduct consisted of a pipe that was set beneath the main street. The cistern was well preserved; visitors can descend a staircase to its interior, roofed with an impressive limestone barrel arch.
  • The Basilica – A central public building found in every Roman city, situated near the forum. The basilica was the center of the social, administrative and economic activities of the city’s inhabitants, when inclement weather did not allow activity in the forum. It is an impressive, large roofed structure, measuring 30 x 55 m, built of dressed stones. The plan is rectangular, on a north–south axis.
  • The Calyba – This rectangular structure is 3 m high, with a semicircular niche in the center where a statue of the emperor was placed. It was an open building for cultic purposes, expressing loyalty to imperial rule.
  • The Central Bathhouse – This very impressive public complex included the bathhouse itself and a spacious open courtyard.
  • The Odeon – This was a theater-like structure, but smaller than a theater and roofed, a venue for intimate events like poetry readings with musical accompaniment before a small, privileged audience. It may be said that the odeon in this city attests to the local urban population’s affinity with Classical culture. The structure features a typical semicircular plan, with a 27 m-long north–south axis and an east–west width of 21 m. The eastern side of the odeon is rectangular, and its western side is semicircular.

The Churches

There are a total of eight churches in the city. The church complexes can be divided into the northwest complex and the northeast complex.
The churches were apparently not built before the end of the fifth century CE. The archaeological evidence confirms that they served the inhabitants of the city until it was destroyed by the earthquake of 749 CE.
The Northwest Church Complex – Built directly over the remains of the Roman temple. The church was built using building stones from the previous structures from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The nave, which is on an east–west axis, features two rows of columns dividing the hall into the nave, flanked by two aisles. The apse was in the eastern wall and in the western part was the atrium, a courtyard paved with basalt slabs. The floor of the name featured a mosaic with two brief inscriptions in Greek noting the names of the donors.

The Northeast Church Complex – During excavations of this church a limestone sarcophagus was found containing the skeletal remains of a female saint, who was interred in the church near the apse and the altar. The church was built in a residential quarter dating from the fourth century CE. A fresco of the goddess of fortune, Tyche, was found in the church, indicating that Tyche was the patron goddess of the city.

The Ein Gev Structures

During the War of Independence the Syrian outpost at the site was conquered by the members of Kibbutz Ein Gev and an Israel Defense Forces’ forward position was established here, taking advantage of the controlling view of the surroundings afforded by the topography. This forward position served the IDF until the Six-Day War. To this day, in the northwestern part of the city a cable car constructed in 1948 can be seen, built by Lt. Col. David Laskov to ferry equipment from Kibbutz Ein Gev to the soldiers stationed on the mountain. There are also numerous remains at the site of communications trenches and firing positions that were part of the IDF outpost at the site. On Israel’s nineteenth Independence Day, on May 15, 1967 (Hebrew date, 5 Iyar 5727), the commander of the outpost, Lt. Rami Zayit, was killed. A memorial to him is situated on the western edge of the mountain, next to which two olive trees are planted.


Sussita (Hippos) National Park

Useful Information
Opening Hours

                                        Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing time                                    
Summer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
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Access is limited and must be pre-coordinated with site personnel

Entry For Dogs

Dogs are allowed

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