Truth or Lies: Are We Blinded by What We Think We Already Know? Zippori and Nazareth (Israel #4)

First century Zippori

Can you picture it,
Icy fingers leading frigid white winds as they blast down a blinding snowstorm like a locomotive full steam ahead…
In the Holy Lands?
Me either.

In a kooky historical tale, Josephus tells of construction fanatic Herod the Great (73-4 BC), conquering the ancient city of Zippori or Sepphoris, in a snowstorm.
Hmmm, True or False?
Though Flavius Josephus writings have been upheld time and again by archeological findings, a visit to this balmy climate leaves one to wonder about the accuracy of that particular fact…

Acres of ruin stretched before me. Did Jesus calloused feet walk these rutted streets? There is no mention of this city in the bible, but it lay only three and a half miles down the hill from his home of Nazareth, population 150.

Called “the ornament of all Galilee” by Josephus, Zippori, bustled with lavish construction. Some scholars think that Joseph and Jesus in all probability, took the one hour walk and plied their trade in the greatest restoration venture of that time. Probably True?

And tradition says it was the home Jesus grandparents, where his mother Mary was born.
Not so sure about that…

A city of great beauty and importance, it became the administrative capital of first century Galilee and later the Sanhedrin met there. It was here that the first written Mishnah was completed. (The first written codification of Jewish oral law.)

We saw oodles of fabulous mosaics. A feast for my eyes, the thousands of hours someone spent bent on the floor, piecing tiny colored tiles together into indicate works of art had my brain spinning. I decided that had I lived 2000 years ago, I would have been a mosaic designer. (Though I wonder if a woman would have been allowed)?

The most famous one is the Byzantine design depicting the lovely face of a genteel woman dubbed the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” whose eyes follow you as you walk by.

The Cardo which is a very Roman design, designating the main north south road, had been excavated to expose the limestone street. I loved this because I could almost hear the rattle of the traffic as I saw long ruts cut deep from the years of carts and chariots driven through the town.

A bustling city on the hillside, we stopped next in Nazareth for our first of many lunches of falafel and hummus. I was already a fan of hummus, but falafel was a new and delicious discovery. It consisted of homemade pita bread sliced in half and stuffed to the brim with salad, dressing and ground chickpeas resembling hushpuppies inside. Yumminess!

We saw no ruins here, but trekked up the winding street to the Church of the Annunciation which was built over an ancient site. I tried to keep my eyes ahead and ignore the siren’s call of the vendors as we passed tiny shops exploding with trinkets and racks of scarves waving colorful in the breeze.

Tradition places Mary’s house in this spot. Curving down into the bowels of the opulent church, surrounded by staring stained glass eyes, we stood before a cave-home exposed in the wall.

For some reason I had Nazareth pictured in my mind as a flat little dusty town of cramped square houses with families packed tight within.
So False!
The reality?— many of the houses were built in the caves which dotted the rolling hillside. The guide made a valid point. Why labor over a house of mud and stone when you had a naturally formed move-in-ready home, that was cool in the summers and warm in the winters?

But here’s the sad tale of Israel as a whole. Nazareth is the only city that takes off on Sundays. The rest of the land follows the Sabbath with Sunday being just another work day for them. According to our tour guide thirty percent of this city are Christian as compared to only two percent in Jerusalem, “The Holy City”.

The irony of modern Nazareth being the last Christian stronghold in all Israel is irrefutable.

Modern day Nazareth

False beliefs gained ground slowly as Jesus sat in their midst and taught them. They oohed and awed fawning over who they saw as the mere mortal “Joseph’s son,” only to be a breath away from murdering him when they didn’t like what he said.
“…They were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. Isn’t this Joseph’s son?…“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
After declaring he was not sent to them, (he knew they would reject him), they were furious and “drove him out of the town and took him to the brow of the hill on which to town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Luke 4:22-30

Sometimes we are so blinded by the familiar, by what we think we know as truth, that we miss the beautiful message from heaven above.,