Bethlehem Galilee, Cana, and Sephoris Tzippori
Bethlehem of the Galilee
The beautiful Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is the site for several nearby towns, such as Nazareth, Cana, Bethlehem Galilee, and Sephoris (Tzippori), which appeal to both Jews and Christians. These very scenic areas offer amazing photo opportunities, so don’t forget to bring your camera.
For Christians, visiting these sites can be combined with touring other Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee area, such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Some of the area attractions include olive oil tasting and a variety of great activities for kids.
There are two Bethlehem’s: Bethlehem of Judea and Bethlehem of the Galilee. Bethlehem in Hebrew means house of bread. Mentioned in the Bible as Bethlehem of Zebulon, today it is called Bethlehem of the Galilee or in Hebrew Bet Lechem Ha’glilit. It is located near the town of Tivon on the southwest side of the Jezreel Valley, about seven miles northwest of Nazareth.
Some scholars believe that Bethlehem Galilee may have been the place Mary and Joseph traveled to for the census and where she gave birth to the Christian Savior, as they surmise that a donkey trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Judea would have been very difficult for a woman in a state of advanced pregnancy. However, the Christian Gospels state emphatically that the birth took place in Bethlehem of Judea. At any rate, it is certainly worth your while to visit both Bethlehems!
German Templars to Eco-Tourism
German Protestant Templars who settled mainly in Haifa and on Mount Carmel also settled here over 100 years ago at an adjacent site called Alonei-Abba. They built sturdy stone houses and protected the forests from being cut down by the Turks. As a result there are many very beautiful giant old Tabor oak trees found here. However, these German Templars supported the Nazis during World War II and so the British expelled them to Australia.
Eco-Tourism and the Spicy Way
Today, Bethlehem of the Galilee is the site of a Jewish farming community (moshav) that was settled in 1948. On the western side of the moshav are archaeological ruins, including old olive presses and the remains of an ancient synagogue or church. A beautiful floor mosaic found here, showing animals, grapes, trees and geometric patterns, is on display at the entrance to the passenger terminal at Ben Gurion Airport.
The moshav is involved in tourism and eco-tourism and offers guest rooms, a restaurant, coffee shops, and a gift shop. They also operate a dairy farm and grow medicinal herbs and spices under the name of the “Spicy Way” or Derech Ha’tavlinim in Hebrew.
The site is beautiful all year round, but in the early spring it is especially lovely, as it is covered with myriads of wild flowers like cyclamens and anemones. If you can arrange your trip to Israel to be in February/March you won’t be disappointed! The Visitors Center features exhibits of herbal infusions and mixtures, herbal recipes, lectures, cooking workshops, and best of all activities for children. For further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (04) 953-3405.
Kafr Cana near Nazareth is believed to have been the site of the “Wedding in Cana.” Cana was also the site of the home of a disciple of the Christian savior named Nathaniel. Cana had a large Jewish population at that time. Eventually the town became Christian, but today is mainly a Muslim town. In the center of the town are old burial caves and buildings and the Street of the Churches with a promenade. Some Christians like to hold weddings at Cana. It is also a favorite place to buy wine. Kafr Cana is a very popular tourist site with about 200,000 visitors each year.
Sepphoris or Tzippori
Sepphoris, called Tzippori in Hebrew is located about 5 kms west of Nazareth and was a major Jewish town in the Second Temple period and the capital of the Galilee until Herod Antipas moved the capital to Tiberias.
Birthplace of Mary
Christian tradition based on an early apocryphal writing relates that Mary was born and raised in Tzippori. Her parents were Anna and Yoachim. After her father died, Mary and her widowed mother, Anna, moved to Nazareth. Other apocryphal sources say she was born in Nazareth and educated in Jerusalem or born in Jerusalem.
Tzippori National Park houses the archaeological ruins of the town of Tzippori and is a very popular tourist site. One uncovered mosaic depicts a beautiful young woman and has been nicknamed “The Mona Lisa of the Galilee.”
Home of the Mishnah
Tzippori is also believed to be the burial site of a prominent Jewish rabbi who lived there in Talmudic times, Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, the compiler of the Mishnah.
Bethlehem Galilee, Cana, and Tzippori: Did You Know?
While at Tzippori, you can visit the Olive Press at Rish Lakish in Tzippori Village. They produce organic kosher extra virgin olive oil and cultivate organic vegetables. They offer organized tours, workshops and olive oil tasting, and a coffee shop with products baked or made with olive oil. For kids they offer the chance to pick olives in season and help out in the organic vegetable garden. For further information email: email@example.com or call (04) 655-5245.