The ancient city of Zippori (aka Tzippori) in the Lower Galilee region of northern Israel, was described by the first century Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, as ‘the ornament of all Galilee.’ This beautiful archaeological site is located on a hill midway between the Mediterranean Sea and Sea of Galilee. With abundant spring water and a fertile valley around it, it is a truly beautiful spot and includes what many have come to describe as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.
History of Zippori
Mona Lisa of Zippori by Jamie Lynn Ross, on Flickr
An ancient city of great importance, Zippori was founded in the Hellenistic era and named the administrative capital of Galilee by Gabinius, the Roman governor, in the mid-first century BCE. Relatively uniquely, the city did not join the revolt against Rome in 66 CE instead opening its gates to the legions of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and thus being saved.
By the second century, Zippori had become the center of Jewish religious and spiritual life in the Land of Israel. The Jewish supreme religious and judicial body, the Sanhedrin was located in Zippori at the beginning of the third century, a time when Jews were the majority of the town’s population. The Sanhedrin moved to Tiberias soon after, but Zippori did not fade, and remained a center of Bible study, and a place where Jews and the Roman pagan population lived harmoniously.
Zippori National Park
Since 1990 large areas of Zippori have been excavated, illuminating the written history of the city through incredible mosaics which line the floor. The remains of the ancient city are now a national park and attest to the uniquely pluralistic quality of Zippori over the centuries. The sites include a Roman theater, a Jewish residential quarter, ritual baths, churches and many, many mosaics including, notably the ‘Mona Lisa of the Galilee’
Zippori National Park is located off route 79, between Nazareth and HaMovil junction, 5 minutes from Nazareth, 45 minutes from Haifa, and 90 minutes from Tel Aviv. For archaeology fans, this is one not to miss.