Zippori National Park

September 13th 2010

What was once home to over 40,000 people, including rabbis, Romans and Hellenized Jews, is now a vast archeological site at Zippori National Park in the Lower Galilee. The great Jewish court known as the Sanhedrin was located in Zippori and her most important resident was Rabbi Judah HaNasi, compiler of the Mishnah, a central Jewish text still studied today.

Spend up to four hours exploring ancient mosaics and life in mishnaic times at Zippori (also known as Sepphoris) National Park. There is so much to see at Zippori, including synagogues, mansions, a Roman theater, burial caves, a water reservoir, a shopping boulevard, and the remnants of a crusader fortress. However, the park is best known for its many ancient mosaics.

The most famous is undoubtedly the mosaic scholars call the Mona Lisa of the Galilee. Researchers believe the young woman’s face was meant to be Venus, the Roman goddess of love. The mosaic work is of much finer detail than many other mosaics of the time. The second most significant mosaic is found in a restored villa from the 3rd century. There visitors can view a mosaic that illustrates scenes from the life of Dionysus, the Roman god of wine.

Additional mosaics are found in the synagogue, but the largest and most impressive mosaic is located in the 5th century Nile Building. Archeologists believe the Nile Building served some kind of public function and was once completely paved with colorful mosaics. The Nile Mosaic originally covered the entire floor and portrays landscape scenes around the Nile River in Egypt and various hunting scenes.

The original Roman theatre seats 4,500 and has been partially restored. From the top of the theatre, visitors can enjoy a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains of the Galilee and the Bet Netofa Valley. If you love great scenery, don’t miss the view from the Crusader fortress. The underground water system from the 1st century and the Talmudic-era residential quarter are also highlights.

A film in the Visitors’ Center helps orient visitors to the site. The Visitors’ Center also offers guided tours and themed activities, including Bar Mitzvahs as they were performed in mishnaic times. Parts of the site are wheelchair accessible and, for those in wheelchairs, advanced arrangements can be made for the use of a special vehicle to tour the park.