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ROMAN PAST BRIGHTENS FUTURE FOR TOWN IN ISRAEL

The Roman ruins at Beit Shean are giving the run-down frontier town a future in its past.

When private financiers were reluctant to invest so far from Israel's center and so near the Jordanian border, the government funded a project in 1986 to restore a wealth of culture to save the town from sinking under poverty.Three years' work on the project has produced jobs for 160 local residents and a nearly complete Roman city with bathhouse, colonnaded streets, monuments and market which Israelis hope will attract tourists from Israel and abroad.

The architectural treasures of Beit Shean are crowned by a magnificent open-air Roman theater. A gala opera festival next month will introduce visitors to the site.

Beit Shean, named Scythopolis when the Greeks inhabited the area, reveals traces of 20 civilizations dating back to the 15th century B.C., when archaeologists believe it was an Egyptian stronghold.