Zippori and the Mona Lisa of the Galilee
Zippori, also known as Tzippori, is an ancient city in the Lower Galilee region of Northern Israel. The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius, affectionately called Zippori ‘the ornament of all Galilee.’ The beautiful archaeological site is situated midway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The region surrounding Zippori is known for its beauty, complete with spring water all along a fertile valley.
The History of Zippori
Zippori was founded in the Hellenistic period and was a great ancient city. Gabinius, the Roman governor, named Zippori the administrative capital of Gallilee in the middle of the first century BCE. Furthermore, during the Great Jewish Revolt of 66 CE, when residents of Judea revolted against Roman occupation, Zippori remained a Roman city. Zippori even opened its gates to the emperor Vespasian and thus was saved from the war.
However, by the second century, Zippori had grown to be the center of Jewish religious and spiritual life in what is known today as the Land of Israel. By the third century, a Jewish religious and judicial assembly formed in Zippori, called the Sanhedrin. The formation of the Sanhedrin marks a period when Jews were the largest population in the city. While the Sanhedrin eventually moved to Tiberias, Zippori’s vibrancy was undiminished as it remained a center of biblical study and a sanctuary where Roman pagans and Jewish residents lived in harmony.
Zippori National Park
In 1990, archaeological excavation began across large swaths of Zippori. This excavation unearthed an incredible array of mosaics along the floor of the ancient city, revealing a great written history of the town. Today, the areas of excavation form a national park. Visitors to the park can see a Roman theater, tour the residential quarter and visit ritual baths and churches. Furthermore, one of the famous mosaics in the park is colloquially called the ‘Mona Lisa of Galilee.’ Zippori National Park attests to the pluralistic nature of ancient Zippori, a true city of tolerance where people of different religions lived side by side.
Directions to Zippori
From Tel Aviv, Zippori is only 90 minutes away. It is 45 minutes from Haifa and 5 minutes from Nazareth. Zippori is located between Nazareth and HaMovil junction, just off route 79.
For professional and amateur lovers of archaeology, Zippori is a must-see location.