Archaeologists turned up so many beautiful mosaics in Tzipori that people used to say it might have been a regional catalogue store for those the ornate floors the Romans loved! As you’ll learn on a visit to Tzipori National Park west of Nazareth, its citizens could afford to indulge, because their city’s fate was very different from other Galilee towns in Roman times –during the Great Revolt (66–73 CE) it surrendered to the Romans without a fight. It was thus saved from destruction and went on to prosper.
Byzantine and medieval lore mark Tzipori as the birthplace of Mary. In Jewish tradition, it is best known as the hometown of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi who codified the Mishnah (the first book of the Talmud) here in the late second century CE. Visitors feel close to Jewish history and practice in Tzipori’s synagogue, with its magnificent fifth-century mosaic whose motifs symbolize longed-for redemption.
Another highlight is the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” in Tzipori’s restored villa. With her enigmatic smile, created by with hundreds of small stones in dozens of natural shades, she peers out from the past, surrounded by scenes of the cavorting wine god, Dionysus and his minions. You can also stroll down main street to the Nile House, where another gorgeous mosaic depicts the Nile River festival, starring gods, goddesses and a menagerie of African animals. Visitors also love exploring the gigantic water tunnel that brought water to the city for hundreds of years from a nearby spring.