For Christians, this park is among the most moving places in Israel, because it's where Jesus established his base for three years and recruited some of his disciples ("Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" [Matthew 4:19]). It is also the site of the House of St. Peter, the ruins of an actual home where Jesus is believed to have lodged. Astride the ruins is an ultramodern Franciscan church, looking a bit like a spaceship.
Capernaum is also a site of interest to Jews, and the prosperity of the ancient Jewish community (it is Kfar Nahum in Hebrew) is immediately apparent from the remains of its synagogue, which dominates the complex. Once thought to date to the 2nd or 3rd century AD, the synagogue is now regarded by many scholars as belonging to the later Byzantine period (4th–5th centuries AD).
Limestone reliefs on the synagogue exterior represent a typical range of Jewish artistic motifs: the native fruits of the land, the biblical Ark of the Covenant, a
seven-branched menorah, a shofar, and an incense shovel (to preserve the memory of the Temple in Jerusalem, where they were used prior to the city's destruction in AD). A small 1st-century mosaic from Magdala shows a contemporary boat, complete with oars and sails—a dramatic illustration of the many New Testament and Jewish references to fishing on the lake.
Jesus eventually cursed the people of Capernaum for failing to heed his message, saying "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths" (Matthew 11:23–24). When visiting Capernaum, dress appropriately: you aren't allowed in shorts or a sleeveless shirt.