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Nazareth, which began as a small Jewish village about 2,000 years ago, became a stronghold of Christianity in the Byzantine period, just a few hundred years later. During that period the name of Nazareth spread far and wide, and the yearnings to see the place where the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ had lived turned the city into a popular pilgrimage site. These visits led to the building of the city’s first church – the Church of the Annunciation at the traditional site of Joseph and Mary’s home. Many more churches have been built throughout the city, and were destroyed and rebuilt with the changes in Muslim and Christian rule over the centuries.
In the 19th century Nazareth attracted renewed interest and Christians returned to live in this city and rebuilt churches and monasteries. Today Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel and has about 30 churches and monasteries, as well as mosques and ancient synagogues. A tour of Nazareth is like reliving its various periods.
Every era left behind it a powerful symbol that became a delightful and popular tourism site in the modern era. Most of the sites are concentrated in the Old City, built in the mid-19th century in a charming Middle Eastern architectural style. A walk through the narrow streets, between the picturesque houses, is an amazing experience and it is worth walking slowly to enjoy their beauty.
The Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret) played an important role in the early years of Christianity and has now become a pilgrimage site for many Christians. According to Christian tradition, Jesus lived, preached and performed miracles in the Kineret and the surrounding region. It was here that he walked on the water and the miracle of the loaves and the fishes happened in nearby Kfar Nakhum (Capernaum). There are many Christian holy sites around the Kineret, including the Mount of Beatitudes, the Church of the Loaves and the Fishes, Kfar Nakhum, Kursi, “Yardenit” Baptismal Site, and the wooden boat discovered in the lake and now on display at Kibbutz Ginosar. Other nearby historic sites include Migdal, Ubeidiya (Israel’s most important prehistoric site), Kibbutz Dganya Alef, and the city of Tiberias.