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tourism / archaeology

Israeli-American nonprofit to restore sites that played a key role in Jesus' ministry

Israel Nature and Heritage Foundation of America looking to restore the ancient ruins of the Korazim-Capernaum

Remains of houses in the biblical village of Korazim a few kilometers north of the lake of Galilee. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Overlooking the beautiful northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the trail from Korazim to the restored ruins of the first century city of Capernaum where Yeshua (Jesus) taught and lived has been an important tourist site for both Jews and Christians. 

In Matthew 11:20-24, Yeshua condemns three cities as being unrepentant, among them Korazim. For this reason, it is believed that he visited that city, the remains of which remain until today, and performed miracles there. Since he also mentions Capernaum, the place Christian tradition claims was the home of Peter – where Yeshua lived or was known to have visited – (Matthew 8:14; Mark 2: 1-12), it has been assumed that if he was leaving Korazim, he was probably heading down the hill to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee shore. 

In more recent times, a trail between the two cities has fallen into disrepair, suffering from neglect and the scourge of time.

One organization is changing that. The Israel Nature and Heritage Foundation of America (INHFA) – an organization dedicated to preserving Israel’s important heritage sites – has begun a project designed to restore and revitalize the entire trail. The organization’s executive director, Matan Sivek, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that they are adding a wheelchair path to the 4-kilometer trail and setting up important informational signs and markers to make the Korazim site accessible to all. 

Shade trees will be planted along the trail and at rest places. Drinking fountains and rest room facilities, will be added. The new path will be laid with concrete. They are also working to improve the city’s archeological remains, specifically the magnificent late 3rd century synagogue – with its so-called Moses’ Seat, a place from which it is believed the Torah was read publicly, centuries ago. The organization also has plans to improve the synagogue site by replacing the broken stone floor with pavement and placing a roof over the area. In addition, the organization will create a museum to display uncovered artifacts and eventually make it available for events, such as bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings. 

In addition to the restoration of the Korazim-Capernaum trail and the improvement of the Korazim synagogue, the INHFA has many other projects in Israel in various stages of development. Many ancient buildings are being reconstructed so that they can be used today. 

One example is the Roman amphitheater at Beit Shean. The stage is being renovating in order to make it suitable for live performances. Ongoing projects include cleaning up the country and restoring wildlife, such as sea turtles and the Griffon Vulture, an endangered species that is being reintroduced into the Hai Bar Carmel Nature Reserve located on the Carmel Mountain outside of Haifa. 

Restorations have been carried out on a synagogue at Hamat Tveria Hot Springs. This is one of 17 historic sites that have been renovated to allow the public to celebrate their family ceremonies, including bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings, as well as other events. 

Other similar historic sites that the INHFA has restored and is making available for family events, include sites at Bar‘am, Gamla, Tzippori, Bet Alpha, Tel Megiddo, Bet She‘arim, Apollonia, Bet Guvrin, Kastel, Herodium, Mount Gerizim, En Gedi Antiquities, Masada, Tel Arad and Tel Beersheva.

The Tzippori site includes a restored synagogue, a long narrow basilica-like structure, dating to the end of the Byzantine period, which contains an impressive mosaic floor divided into four parts: the binding of Isaac, the signs of the Zodiac, a description of the tabernacle in the desert and the Ark of the Covenant in the Jerusalem temple.

Sivek told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that the Tzippori site, near Beit She'arim, includes the restoration of a cave dating to the Talmudic period which will be open to the public, and the remains of the Jewish Quarter, a residential quarter from Mishnaic and Talmudic times. A sarcophagus engraved with Hebrew writing has also been found there.

At Bar’am, Sivek said a project is underway to further restore the original façade of the synagogue. The remains of the third century synagogue, including its covered portico and six stone columns, are now on display. A new project at Tel Ashkelon will create a walking path that encompasses four thousand years of history and a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. A Roman basilica is being uncovered and reconstructed with several statutes and reliefs. The remains date back to the first century B.C. reign of Herod and represent the country’s largest Roman-era basilica. Coins discovered in the basilica’s foundations pinpoint its construction to Herod’s reign, which spanned from 37 to 4 B.C.

Work is also being done at the archaeological ruins of Ein Gedi, where Sivek says an ancient Jewish village is being uncovered in connection with the remains of a third century synagogue with mosaic floors.

The project that Sivek is most excited about is the restoration of Solomon’s palace at Tel Migiddo. The existence of the palace dates this site as going back to the First Temple period, making it one of the oldest. The remains of what are believed to have been stables for King Solomon’s horses and a temple where animal sacrifices were performed have already been discovered. In 2010, a collection of jewelry pieces was found in a ceramic jug with pieces dating as far back as 1300-1200 B.C.

All of these projects are quite exciting and together they make Israel a truly interesting place to visit. One can walk in the steps of characters from both the Old and New Testaments. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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