The childhood city of Jesus
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Nazareth is known as "the Arab capital of Israel"; the population is made up predominantly of Arab citizens of Israel, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69%) or Christian (30.9%). In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.
Nazareth, which began as a small Jewish village about 2,000 years ago, became a stronghold of Christianity in the Byzantine period, just a few hundred years later. During that period the name of Nazareth spread far and wide, and the yearnings to see the place where the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ had lived turned the city into a popular pilgrimage site. These visits led to the building of the city’s first church - the Church of the Annunciation at the traditional site of Joseph and Mary’s home. Many more churches have been built throughout the city, and were destroyed and rebuilt with the changes in Muslim and Christian rule over the centuries.
There are many ancient churches in the Old City, with the Church of the Annunciation heading the list. The rebuilt church retained parts of the previous churches, from the Crusader and Byzantine periods. The church also houses an impressive collection of paintings.
Right next to this church is the Church of Saint Joseph, built on the ruins of agricultural buildings where, according to tradition, Joseph had his carpentry shop.
While the Church of the Annunciation was built on the site of Mary’s home, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is built over Mary’s Well, from which Jesus mother is said to have drank. This is a structure from the Crusader period and has some interesting frescoes. Right next to Mary’s Well is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, inside a Crusader hall. According to tradition this is the location of the synagogue in which Jesus prayed.
Among the many other churches in Nazareth are the Mensa Christi Church, the Maronite Church, St. Gabriel’s Church and the Salesian Church.
The Old City also has important buildings from the Ottoman period, including the Saraya, or Government House, built by Daher el Omar, the governor of the Galilee in the 18th century, and the White Mosque, which is used today as a house of prayer and an education and culture center. The White Mosque also houses a museum with exhibits that document Nazareth’s history.