It’s been a really busy week here. In addition to the talk I gave at Bar-Ilan last Sunday, I also gave a talk at the Technion on Thursday, am trying to meet a (self-imposed) deadline on a manuscript, and we are getting ready to go out of town at the end of this week. So, I am finally writing about this trip, only a week late.

After about six weeks of waiting, our National Parks membership card arrived in the mail. Last weekend we decided to follow Anat’s advice and check out Tzipori, an archaeological site that is part of the Israel Nature & Parks Authority.

Noah with the Israeli Parks Authority mt. goat mascot. He got the t-shirt too.

It is olive harvest season here. This is an olive tree at the entrance to the site. Can you see the ripe black olives?

Tzipori is located just outside of Nazareth and is famous and important for its spectacular and well-preserved mosaic floors. Many different civilizations have built their sites on each others’ ruins on this mountaintop and we saw artifacts from Greek, Roman, and Jewish towns and a crusader-era fortress. Excavations have been ongoing for about 70 years. One important discovery was a formal street grid suggesting urban planning.

ruin of an old storefront on the street grid

medallion on the street

The main streets were lined with stores and homes, including some mansions, as evidenced by the elaborate mosaic floors that the wealthy could afford.

floor of a home

The park included the ruins of the main city streets, as well as some of the important monuments on the outskirts of town.

cactus forest with ripe fruit along the trail to the Crusader fortress

The fortress was built during the Crusader period on the ruins of an even older building. The building is at the highest point on the site to afford a view of the surrounding area. We could see all of the way to Haifa from the roof of this building – it was a 45 min. drive. Imagine how long it would take to travel by wagon, on unpaved roads, in mountainous terrain, and the advantage of seeing the enemy coming when they were still 2 days away.

entrance to the Crusader fortress

remains of olive oil press

Another of the outskirts buildings is the remains of a synagogue. There used to be many synagogues in ancient Tzipori, but this is the only one that has been discovered so far (found in 1994). A permanent structure has been built around the floor and old bimah to protect it, so the light was not so great.

floor of the synagogue

Tzipori is mentioned in the Talmud as a Jewish city with 18 synagogues and was the site of the Sanhedrin for a short time as well as the home of Talmudic scholars.

the rocks are where the bimah used to be

more of the synagogue floor

The floor has inscriptions in Greek & Aramaic. Interestingly, in addition to Jewish themes, like shofars and the 7 species, there was also pagan imagery, like the 12 signs of the zodiac.

Noah was amazing on this trip. He was interested in the history, walked the site for 3 hrs., took that picture of the cacti, and was just overall agreeable and happy. We think that his (re)adjustment at school has made him happier in general.

After our history lesson, we drove to Nazareth to go to an Arab restaurant called Diana that we had read good things about. We didn’t have time to stop and see the sights, but from the car we could see throngs of Christian tourists there to see the town where Jesus was a child. We saw so many different types of clergy walking the old city: Greek Orthodox priests, Franciscan friars, monks. We were there for the food. We ordered the salad appetizers, which are the customary start to Arab meals. Usually there is no extra charge for salads and you get anywhere from 3-6. The waiter told us about the salad special of 8NIS/person. We were surprised that they charged, but went for it. We were served 14 salads. Plus pita & olives. It was kind of crazy. We took home a lot of leftovers and I had excellent lunches all week.