Tripping through Tzippori

24 Apr

Main Street, Tzippori

Main Street, Tzippori (click image to view more photos from Tzippori)

Mona Lisa of the Galilee

Mona Lisa of the Galilee (click image for more photos of Tzippori)

What to do on Easter Sunday in the Holy Land? Though tempting as it may sound, Brad and I decided not to go to any of the religious services held in Jerusalem or other nearby towns. We knew those sites would be mobbed. We thought we’d explore one of the National Parks in Israel, in particular, Tzippori, located in the central Galilee region, about an hour and a half drive from us. It was a lovely day for our excursion, sunny and breezy. And even though there was a Biblical connection (it is said to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary) Tzippori was not crowded.

Tzippori was once a thriving settlement in the Central Galilee region dating back to biblical times. Today Tzippori is an Israeli national park containing the ruins of the town that underwent several periods of rule: Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and others. According to Wikipedia: Tzippori of the time of Jesus was a large, Roman-influenced city and hotbed of political activism. Archaeological evidence supports the idea that Jesus, while living in Nazareth, did most of his business in Tzippori.

Most remarkable of all the remains, at least for me, are the numerous mosaic floors that have survived. Most of the mosaics are left exposed to the elements with a flimsy rope barrier to keep tourists from walking over them. An elaborate roof has been erected over mosaic floors of the Nile House and a modern structure has been erected to protect some of the more sophisticated mosaics belonging to the dining room of a Roman villa. We also saw the remains of an ancient Roman amphitheatre and a Crusader fortress. The amphitheatre has been partially restored and we were able to climb to the top of the fortress for panoramic views of the area. It was a bit hazy but we were able to see nearby Nazareth and, much further away, Haifa.

Aside from the ruins and mosaics, the local flora and fauna were also a delight to see. We walked under what must have been ancient olive trees with wide gnarled trunks. Yellow flowers were ubiquitous in the nearby fields. As we walked through the ruins we could now and again see lizards scurrying from one spot to another. And Brad got a chance to see and hear the European Bee-eater.

While we were there we picked up the guide to the National Parks and Nature Reserves of Israel. Tzippori was wonderful and deserves another visit, but there are so many other sites to see…

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