Lower Galilee Sights

Zippori National Park

  • Off Rte. 79 Map It
  • Nazareth
  • Archaeological Site/Ruins
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 05/04/2017

Fodor's Review

The multiple narratives of Zippori, today an impressive, popular archaeological site known for Israel's finest Roman-era mosaics, begin with a Jewish town that stood here from at least the 1st century BC, and Christian tradition reveres the town as the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. Zippori's refusal to join the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans (AD 66–73) left a serious gap in the rebel defenses in the Galilee, angering its compatriots but sparing the town the usual Roman vengeance when the uprising failed. The real significance of Zippori for Jewish tradition, however, is that in the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, the legendary sage Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi, head of the country's Jewish community at the time, moved here from Beit She'arim, whereupon the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court) soon followed. Rabbi Yehuda summoned the greatest rabbis in the land to pool their experiences. The result was the encyclopedic work known as the Mishnah. Further commentary was added in

later centuries to produce the Talmud, the primary guide to Orthodox Jewish practice to this day.

By the 3rd century AD, Zippori had acquired a mixed population of Jews, pagans, and Christians. The most celebrated find is the mosaic floor of a Roman villa, perhaps the governor's residence, depicting Dionysian drinking scenes. Its most stunning detail is the exquisite face of a woman, which the media dubbed "the Mona Lisa of the Galilee." The restored mosaics are housed in an air-conditioned structure with helpful explanations. In other parts of the park, the so-called Nile Mosaic displays Egyptian motifs, and a mosaic synagogue floor (below the parking lot) is decorated with the signs of the zodiac, like those found in Beit Alfa and Hammat Tiberias.

If the mosaic floors reveal the opulence of Roman Sepphoris, the relatively small Roman theater is evidence of the cultural life the wealth could support. Take a few minutes to climb the watchtower of Dahr el-Omar's 18th-century castle for the panoramic view and the museum of archaeological artifacts. About 1 km (½ mile) east of the main site—near the park entrance—is a huge section of ancient Zippori's water system, once fed by springs north of Nazareth. The ancient aqueduct-reservoir is in fact a deep, man-made plastered canyon, and the effect is extraordinary.

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Sight Information


Off Rte. 79, Nazareth, Northern District, Israel

Map It



Website: www.parks.org.il

Sight Details:

  • NIS 28

Published 05/04/2017


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