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NAZARETH – THE CHILDHOOD HOME OF JESUS

Nazareth is the largest city in northern Israel today. It is home to about 75,000 residents, mostly of Arab origin, 70 per cent of whom are Muslims and 30 per cent Christians, approximately. There is also a nearby but separate town called Natzrat Illit (“Upper Nazareth”), the population of which is mostly Jewish. Natzrat Illit was established about 60 years ago and now is home to some 40,000 residents. Together, Nazareth and Natzrat Illit constitutes a multi-ethnic community that lends the region a diverse religious and cultural identity. Archeological excavations made in the area uncovered settlements dating back to the Bronze Age. However, the city is not mentioned in any literature until the books of the Gospels, which were written from the First Century A.D. and include the oft repeated phrase “Jesus of Nazareth”.

According to the Christian Scriptures, Jesus spent his childhood and adolescence in Nazareth, although not much information is available about this period of his life. Some description of his life is noted in the last story of Thomas' apocryphal work, about Jesus the child teaching the elders in the Temple. This work is very similar to Luke 2:41-52. At the time, Nazareth was a small Jewish village of only 400 to 500 people, hence Jesus and his family were well known in the community. This explains the skeptical and negative attitude experienced by Jesus when he declared himself in Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel (Luke 4:16-19). How could the world’s long-standing hope emerge from such a small and humble village as Nazareth?

Moreover, the Gospels indicate that Jesus learned his father’s profession as a carpenter or a mason in Nazareth (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). It seems the young man Jesus was engaged in various construction projects throughout the Galilee. We can deduce from these brief accounts in the Gospel that the life of Jesus in Nazareth was marked by skill and hard work, as well as sincerity, submission, kindness, respect and scholarship.

Nazareth today is a popular destination for Christian pilgrims and travelers. The most prominent site in Nazareth is the Basilica of the Annunciation in the center of the city. The basilica’s name denotes the location, which according to tradition, the angel Gabriel broke the news to the Virgin Mary that she was expected to conceive and give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). St. Joseph's Church, located on the basilica’s grounds, marks the site traditionally considered the home of Jesus at childhood. The Synagogue Church, located in the city’s market, marks the synagogue in which Jesus declared that he was the Messiah (Isaiah 61). Mount Precipice is a park outside the city, overlooking the Jezreel Valley. This is the traditional site where the villagers of Nazareth pushed Jesus from the cliff, but he was saved. Visitors can also visit the Village of Nazareth site, which recreates the lifestyle of the ancient village of Nazareth, describing the life and culture of Jesus from the time of the Second Temple.

We invite you to Nazareth, to walk through the region of his childhood and to feel history coming to life before your very eyes.