Zippori National Park

​​​

Tsippori was once the capital of the Galilee, the seat of the Sanhedrin and the place where the Mishna was completed.

The population of Tsippori was mixed, and it now contains the remains of dozens of beautiful mosaics from the Roman and Byzantine periods which made it an international city of mosaics.

Major Points of Interest

  • The theater
  • The Jewish quarter
  • The Crusader castle
  • Dionysus House
  • Nile Festival House
  • The ancient reservoir
  • The synagogue
  • Layout of the streets

 

Details of the Major Points of Interest:

  • The Theater - a reconstructed remnant of a Roman theater, unique in the country.  The 4,500-seat theater, built at the end of the first century CE, is carved out of the rocky slope, and provides a view of the Bet Netofa Valley and the hills of Upper Galilee.  Musical and vocal performances are given here from time to time.

  • The Jewish Quarter - remains of a Jewish residential quarter from the time of the Mishna and Talmud.  The quarter has been reconstructed and one can wander around its alleyways.  In light of the many ritual baths, it is assumed that members of the "Yedaiah" Priestly Division lived here.
  • The Crusader Castle - the castle was built in the Crusader period on top of the remains of an earlier structure, and from here the Crusader force departed for the battle at Hittin in 1187.  The castle contains an exhibit of findings and tablets telling the history of the city and the excavations.  There is a guided lookout on the roof.
  • Dionysus House - a Roman villa, containing a mosaic floor describing scenes from the life of Dionysus, god of wine in Greek mythology.  This impressive mosaic shows the image of a woman, nicknamed "the Mona Lisa of the Galilee".  In the opinion of many researchers, it is the pinnacle of mosaic art in the country.
  • Nile Festival House - a public area from the Byzantine period, decorated with 11 mosaic floors describing the celebrations held in honor of the Nile's rise to its highest level.
  • The Ancient Reservoir - an impressive, 260 m. long underground water facility, which was in operation from the Roman period up to the 7th century.  Walking inside the reservoir, deep below surface level, is a unique experience.   Close to the reservoir is the 6-shaft tunnel.
  • The Synagogue - a long narrow basilica-like structure, dated to the end of the Byzantine period, containing an impressive mosaic floor divided into four parts:  the Sacrifice of Isaac, the signs of the Zodiac, a description of the Tabernacle in the desert and the Arc of the Covenant in the Jerusalem Temple.
  • Streets Layout - the remains of the intersection between the Cardo and the Decumanus were exposed on the site.  The paving stones of the Cardo clearly show the longitudinal grooves caused by the wheels of the carts that travelled over them for many years.   These streets formed part of the city market.

Observation Points

  • Tsippori hill, on which the remains of the ancient city of Tsippori can be seen.
  • Roof of the Crusader castle, which gives a spectacular view of the Lower Galiliee and the Bet Netofa Valley, the Tur'an and Yodfat ranges, the Meron hills and the Nazereth and Carmel ranges.
  • HaSolelim Forest Nature Reserve, with its extensive forest/park habitat of Tabor oaks.

Identity card


 Status the Tsippori National Park was declared in 1993

Reasons for the declaration:

  • To preserve the magnificent city from the Roman and Byzantine periods, with its public houses, mosaics, various structures and streets.
  • To develop heritage tourism to the ancient site
  • To prepare paths, bird-watching stations, signs, and parking lots on the archaeological site and open areas for the benefit of the visiting public
  • To preserve nature and scenery

 

Location in Israel:

The Tsippori National Park lies in the western Lower Galilee, in the region of the limestone hills between Nahal Tsippori to the south and the Bet Netofa Valley to the north.

Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority​​

  • The Nature and Parks Authority takes action to preserve the archaeological findings discovered at Tsippori, including preservation and reconstruction of the Jewish Quarter, preservation of the mosaics and the synagogue.  During the work on the synagogue, the mosaic floor was removed and displayed all over the world, to help raise funds for the erection of the modern structure above it.  Nowadays, Bar Mitzvah and Torah Reading ceremonies are held at the place, as well as Torah and Mishna inauguration ceremonies.
  • A 250 meter long walking route has been prepared in the ancient water reservoir, as well as an upper route around the caved-in ceiling areas.
  • The Lower Galilee-Valleys Education and Instruction Center is located within the National Park.  The center conducts instruction sessions on the history of the Mishna and Talmud periods and the archaeological findings of that period, and other subjects that are part of the Jewish People's legacy.  Alongside these subjects, the Center teaches values connected with the preservation of nature, heritage and scenery. 

Flora


The Tsippori National Park and HaSolelim Forest Reserve contain a range of habitats, among them a forest/park of Tabor oaks, an extensive area of natural woodlands, a planted conifer forest, and ancient agricultural fields and olive groves, as well as rare plants, among them some endangered species. 


The Tabor oak (Queyjrcus ithaburensis) is one of three species of oak growing in Israel.  The National Park contains areas of grassy batha and thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum), both  ancient and young olive groves and conifer forests.  Among the trees growing in the park are:  the Palestine oak (Quercus calliprinos), the terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus), Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioide), Rhamnus punctata, snowdrop bush (Styrax officinalis), Mediterranean medlar (Crataegus azarolus), the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) and the mastic tree  (Pistacia lentiscus).


23 rare plants were found in the park, among them: broadleaf plantain (Plantago major), yellow vetch (Vicia lutea), Galium chaetopodum, Bellard's knotweed (Polygonum bellardi), slender centuary (Centarurium tenuiflorum), cancerwort (Kickxia),  southern medick (Medicago turbinata), Bromus btrachystachys,  Sidonian bellflower (campanula sidoniensis), whole-leaved scabious (knautia integrifolia), heliotrope, velvet bee orchid (Ophrys transhyrcana), clustered dock (rumex conglomeratus), and  Syrian cephalaria (Cephalaria syriaca).

Three of the rare plants are in the "red" category, that is to say they are critically endangered:  Jaffa iris (Iris grant-duffii), valley figwort (Scrophularia hierochuntina) and muskweed (Myagrum perfoliatum).

 

In addition, many geophytes, grasses, rock and wetland plants grow in the park, in the Tsippori stream and spring.  Of the water plants, the following were found around the springs:  common verbena (Verbena officinalis), horsemint (Mentha longifolia), hairy willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), holy bramble (Rubus sanctus), brown flatsedge (Cyperus fuscus), water speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica), the common fig (Ficus carica), false grass-poly (Lythrum junceum), Helminthia (Helminthia echioides), curlytop knotweed (Polygonum lapathifolium), watercress (Nasturtium officinale), knotgrass (paspalum distichum), fleabane  (Pulicaria dysenterica) and  strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum.

 

This year a shelter garden has been set up, at the entrance to the National Park, for plants from the Bet Netofa Valley and heavy soil areas, among which are habitats typical of the Valley.  The garden will help to preserve the rare and critically endangered ("red") plants.

Fauna

The National Park and the Reserve maintain a broad biological diversity, including many species of mammals and reptiles, including some that are quite rare, such as Gunther's cylindrical skink (Chalcides guentheri) - a species endemic to Israel and Lebanon.  Many birds also spend the summer here or in the region on a regular basis, including the great tit (Parus major) which nests in the trunks of ancient olive trees.

 

Large and small mammals live in the park, such as the Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus), the broad-toothed field mouse (Apodemus mystacinus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), porcupine (Hystrix indica), golden jackal (Canis aureus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), mongoose (Herpestes), European badger (Meles meles), Cape hare (Lepus capensis), stone marten (Martes foina)  and the weasel (Mustela).

 

Among the reptiles that have been observed here in the conifer forests are Rüppell's snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus rueppellii), Schneider's skink (Eumeces schneideri), occelated skink (Chalcides ocellatus), Kotschyi's gecko (Cyrtopodion kotschyi), Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), Lebanon lizard (Lacerta laevis), Dahl's whip snake (Platyceps najadum), black whip snake (Dolichophis jugularis),  (Rhinotyphlops simoni) ,  Roth's dwarf racer (Eirenis rothii), European legless lizard (Pseudopus apodus) and Caspian turtle (Mauremys caspica).

The park constitutes an ecological corridor that connects between the Bet Netofa Valley in the east and Gush Alonim in the west, and between the Shefar'am forest in the north and the Shimshit and Solelim forests in the south.

The importance of the ecological corridor is the continued existence of ecosystems, preservation of biological diversity, creating a continuity of open areas and reducing the effect of the phenomenon of splitting and segmentation of ecosystems.

32 species of birds have been observed in the park, the majority of them stable, and some summering only.   Nests of great tit (Parus major) can be seen here in the trunks of ancient olive trees, as well as a permanent nest of snake eagles (Circaetus gallicus).  In the Tsippori spring there are invertebrates, such as dragonflies (Anisoptera), diving beetles (Dytiscus), caddisflies (Trichoptera), freshwater snails Melanopsis praemorsa and Theodoxus Jordani and others, as well as marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) and freshwater crabs (Potamon potamios).

History

Tsippori was the magnificent capital of the Galilee already in the time of the Roman conquest, in 65 BC.  In the 2nd century CE Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi transferred the Sanhedrin to Tsippori, where the Mishna was completed.  The Christians also attribute importance to the city because, according to their tradition, this is where the parents of Mary, mother of Jesus, lived.

 According to Josephus, Tsippori was called the "glory of the entire Galilee".  The population of the city was mixed, and it was a Jewish spiritual center.  Many scholars lived here, Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi transferred the seat of the Sanhedrin from Bet She'arim to Tsippori, and around 220 CE he completed the Mishna in the city.  In the middle of the 3rd century, after the seat of the Sanhedrin was transferred to Tiberias, Tsippori lost its status as capital of the Galilee, but it apparently continued to be an important Jewish center until the 5th century CE, when the Christian community in the city increased and became a significant component of the population.

 The Christians attribute great importance to Tsippori due to their tradition that in this city lived Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary, Jesus' mother.  The fact that the city was a Christian center is evidenced by the remains of the Byzantine-Crusader church.  In the Arabian period the city fell from its greatness and in the Crusader period "La Sephorie" was a city and fortress in the Galilean Principality.  

Archaeology

The archaeological excavations at Tsippori revealed spectacular treasures from the glorious past of the Capital of the Galilee.  The cultural richness is evidenced by dozens of beautiful mosaics which shed light on the ancient town in the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The main archaeological findings in Tsippori belong to the Roman and Byzantine eras.  At its peak the city's population consisted of 30,000 Jewish and non-Jewish residents.   The most interesting finding is the extraordinary number of spectacular mosaic floors (more than 40) that decorated private, industrial, public buildings and even pavements.

The excavations at Tsippori commenced in 1931, the first delegation being from the University of Michigan, headed by Leroi Waterman.  This delegation uncovered part of the Roman theater (that has been partially reconstructed), the foundations of the Crusader fortress and it documented parts of the ancient water system, through which water flowed into the city along aqueducts from springs in the Nazereth hills.

In 1983, excavations were resumed by a delegation from the University of Tampa, Florida, headed by Prof. James Strange.  The team conducted a survey of graves and structures, excavated on the slope of the hill, the theater and the lower city, where it exposed a large public building containing handsome mosaic floors.  In the summer of 2009 this delegation returned to excavate in the region of the public building.

 

In the years 1985-1989 a joint team from Duke University, USA and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, headed by Ehud Netzer, Arik and Carol Mayers, excavated in the city, uncovering extensive areas around the fortress, the Jewish residential quarter and Dionysius House, completed the work on the theater and excavated the lower city. 

Since 1990, the Hebrew University delegation has been led by Zeev Weiss, and it has uncovered the Nile Festival House, the Synagogue, the main streets layout, among them the Cardo and the Decumanus, the Orpheus Mosaic, the Roman Temple, the Pillars Building, the Bath House, and more.

The review and study of the aqueducts was commenced in 1975 by a delegation from Tel Aviv University led by Zvika Tzuk.  The delegation excavated the ancient water reservoir between 1993 and 1994.  In the summer of 2005 excavations were resumed by the Hebrew University, headed by Prof. Zeev Weiss.  The work is being conducted every summer with the help of residents from the region.

Geology and Geomorphology

The hills of Tsippori are a continuation of the Nazereth Hills, at the edges of the Megiddo-Shefar'am basin - a region consisting mainly of limestone rocks, as is the majority of the National Park and the HaSolelim Nature Reserve.

The National Park lies at the north-eastern edge of the Megiddo-Shefar'am basin.  This is the geological meeting place of the Eocene and Paleocene epochs, and it is composed mainly of limestone rocks.

To the south-east of the region is a raised inclined block - the Nazereth hills, showing fracturing processes from the end of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods which shaped the scenery of the Lower Galilee.

There are a number of mountain ranges in the region, and the area around them is composed of limestone rocks which led to the creation of intermediate valleys on relatively easy slopes.

The Tsippori hills are a continuation of the Nazereth range towards the north-west, and they constitute a tongue separating between the Netofa and Yizreel Valleys.

The rocks in the Park and the Reserve are varied:  at the south of the National Park there is limestone and flint limestone.  In the central area, which also includes the southern part of the HaSolelim Nature Reserve - chalky limestone and flint, and in the northern region of the declared National Park, which also includes the northern part of the HaSolelim Nature Reserve, there are marly rocks.  At the east of the declared National Park and at the north of the HaSolelim Nature Reserve there is limestone, including a strip of chalk, and in the Tsippori forest - chalk and limestone.

Hydrology

The Tsippori stream drains the Nazereth range of hills.  The main source of the stream is from three springs south of Tsippori, the largest of which is Enot Tsippori at the edge of the Park.  The stream is very polluted due to uncontrolled flow of waste water.

The watershed of the Lower Galilee passes east of the Park.  The main stream flowing within the Park and draining westward is the Tsippori stream.   This stream drains the Nazereth hills, the Tur'an Valley, the west of the Bet Netofa valley (via the Yiftah'el stream) and the Alonim-Shefar'am hills.

Nahal Tsippori starts in the east, from the En Reina and Amat Avel springs, and in the north-east, from the Amitay and Genona springs on the slopes of Har Yona.  The main source of Nahal Tsippori's waters are the three springs flowing from the Senonian layer south of Tsippori, the largest of which is Enot Tsippori at the edge of the Park. 

 

The flow from the Tsippori springs ranged in the past between 0.6 and 1.2 million cu.m. a year, and it served as a reserve for periods of drought.  Some of the sources of the Nahal Tsippori have been applied for a range of uses, and consequently the quantity of water flowing in it has been reduced.  Additionally, sewage at various levels of treatment flows in uncontrolled fashion into the stream, so in practice it has become an open sewage channel.  Total discontinuation of the flow of sewage into the stream is the main goal of rehabilitation of the stream.

 How to get there: From the Hamovil - Nazereth junction (Road 79), between kilometer stones 22-23.

 

Length of walk: One to four hours.

 

Recommended season: All year round.

 

Insist on: The video in the souvenir shop, the model at the entrance, the observation point from the fortress and the water reservoir.

 

What else is there? Cafeteria, souvenir shop, picnic tables, Instruction Center.

UCeremonies can be held in the Tszippori National Park - for details click here.

 

Wedding/Bar Mitzva ceremonies:

For particulars press here

Opening Hours

 Entrance into the Park is closed one hour before the times given below:

 

Summer:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 17:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 16:00

 

winter:

Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:           8:00 - 16:00

Fridays and eves of religious festivals:           8:00 - 15:00

 

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach:  8:00 - 13:00

 

 

Communication

 Tel: 04-645768

Lower Galiliee Education and Explanation Center: 04-6568272

Fax:  04-6568273

e-mail:  gl.zipori@npa.org.il

  

Entrance Fees

Single: Adult:  NIS 28;  Child:  NIS 14

Group (over 30 persons): Adult: NIS 23;  Child:  NIS 13

Student:  NIS 24

Entry of dogs

Dogs on the leash may be brought into the National Park, but not into the buildings.

 

Click here for site pamphlet


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
    32.750621,35.284375
    Tsippori