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NAZARETH (Heb. נָצְרַת), town in Galilee, mentioned several times in the New Testament as the home to which Mary and Joseph, her husband, returned with the child from Egypt and where *Jesus was brought up (Matt. 2:23; Luke 2:39, 51). Archaeological evidence has shown that the area was settled as early as the Middle Bronze Age, and tombs have been found dating from the Iron Age to Hasmonean times. According to the New Testament, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth before Jesus' birth, which was announced there to Mary by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26; 2:4). When Jesus tried to preach to the people of the town, he was attacked, his assailants attempting to throw him headlong from a cliff, identified by tradition as the Jebel Qafza, a hill 350 m. above sea level. Although he left Nazareth, possibly as a result of the incident (Luke 4:16–30; Matt. 4:13), the name Jesus of Nazareth nevertheless remained in common use both in his lifetime and among his followers, especially the apostle Peter. Members of Jesus' family continued to live in Nazareth at least into the second century. The term "Nazarene" was a derogatory name utilized by one's enemies during the first century (Matt. 21:11), and the Hebrew and Arabic terms for Christians (Noẓeri, Nasrāni) are derived from the town's name. Nazareth is not mentioned in non-Christian sources until the third or fourth century, when it was recorded in an inscription found at Caesarea listing the priestly courses and their seats in Galilee. According to this list (which is reproduced in the seventh-century liturgical poems of Kallir and others), the family of Happizzez (i Chron. 24:15) settled in Nazareth, a name derived in this source from the root nṣr (to guard). It is described by Jerome as a very small village in Galilee (Onom. 141:3). Constantine may have included it in the territory of Helenopolis, a city which he founded, but the town remained purely Jewish in the fourth century.

Excavations conducted by B. Bagatti from 1955 to 1968 on the site of the Church of the Annunciation revealed the remains of a church with a mosaic pavement dating to about 450. Below the church and nearby were the remains of a Jewish town from the Roman period in which were pear-shaped silos, vaulted cellars, cisterns, ritual immersion pools (mikva'to), and olive presses. Among the remains were about 80 partly-stuccoed and inscribed stones, as well as column bases. The excavators view these finds as the remnants of a Judeo-Christian synagogue or a Constantinian church built for Jews. The first mention of a church in Nazareth was made in 570 by Antoninus Placentinus, who describes it as a converted synagogue.

In 614 the Jews in the mountains of Nazareth joined the Persians in their war against the Byzantines. Shortly before the Crusader conquest, the town was destroyed by Muslim Arabs. Tancred captured Nazareth, and the Crusaders built a church, whose finely sculptured capitals (now in the Franciscan Museum) exhibit French workmanship of the 12th century. The archbishopric of Beth-Shean was transferred to Nazareth during the Crusades. After winning the decisive battle against the crusader forces on July 4, 1187, Saladin captured the town; its crusader forces and European clergy were forced to retreat to the coast. At that time, according to an eyewitness account, the townspeople were either massacred or imprisoned while the Basilica was profaned. The city was again in Christian hands in 1240 and 1250, and in 1252 St. Louis of France visited there. In 1263 Baybars ordered a pogrom against the Christians and destruction of churches of the land which included the Basilica at Nazareth, which remained in ruins for 400 years. The Franciscans returned to the town in 1620 by permission of the emir Fakhr al-Dīn. A new church was built under Ẓāhir al-ʿAmir in 1730. In 1955 the present Basilica was commissioned by Franciscans, and the building was consecrated in 1969 based upon a three-level design incorporating the remains from a Roman Period pubic building and the Byzantine and Crusader Basilicas in the lower church.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Stephen Phann (2nd ed.)]

Modern Nazareth and Naẓerat Illit

In April 1799 *Napoleon's troops occupied Nazareth, but with his retreat it was recaptured by Aḥmad Jazzār Pasha. In 1890 the German scholar G. Schumacher estimated Nazareth's population at 7,500. Shortly before the outbreak of World War i, the German military command established its Palestinian headquarters there. The town was taken by the British in 1918; at that time there were 8,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of whom were Christian, and the rest Muslim. In the 1920s Nazareth's economy was still based largely on agriculture, as its inhabitants owned lands in the Jezreel Valley. The town remained surrounded with olive groves, which supplied it with raw materials for the manufacture of oil and soap. The Muslim element in Nazareth was strengthened when villagers from the vicinity were absorbed there. Nazareth became a market center for a wide agricultural region and a pilgrimage and tourist center, developing handicrafts, while inhabitants also found work in the Haifa industrial zone.

In July 1948, during the War of Independence, the Israel army took Nazareth from Kaukji's forces in "Operation Dekel." Its population remained and was augmented by Arabs who had abandoned other locations in Israel. It thus increased from 9,000 inhabitants in 1947 to 25,100 in 1961 and 32,900 in 1969, Muslims attaining a slight majority over Christians. In 2002 the population of Nazareth was 61,700, with a municipal area of 6.4 sq. mi. (16.5 sq. km.). It included 67% Muslims and 33% Christians. Unemployment reached 14%, including 80% among women, and income was about half the national average. Tensions between Muslims and Christians, increasing as the Muslims gained hegemony, reached a peak when Muslim residents sought to build a mosque near the Church of the Annunciation.

Nazareth became the largest Arab center in the State of Israel (in its pre-1967 borders) and, with a number of private and public secondary schools, an important center of Arab education and culture. It has a hinterland of Arab villages both in Galilee to the north and in the southern Jezreel Valley and the Iron Hills to the south, constituting a highway junction connected with Haifa, Tiberias, Afulah, and Shefar'am. In 1970 Nazareth had 24 churches and convents of different Christian denominations, the newest being the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation–the largest church in the Middle East–constructed between 1955 and 1968 over the Grotto of the Annunciation and the foundations of the original Byzantine church. Tourism and pilgrimages have been important sources of Nazareth's economy. Other branches of its economy comprise small industries and workshops and administrative services. An increasing number of laborers have been employed in Naẓerat Illit.

In 2000, Nazareth was declared a high-priority tourist site, and the Nazareth 2000 Project initiated large-scale roadwork and rehabilitation of the Old City, together with the construction of new hotels and museums.

In 1957 the ground was laid for the neighboring Jewish development town of Naẓerat Illit. Israel-born settlers formed the nucleus of its population, which was augmented by immigrants mainly from Europe. It received city status in 1974. Its population increased from 1,000 in 1957 to 13,200 in 1969, and reached 35,200 by the mid-1990s and 44,290 in 2002, including 91% Jews, 2% Muslims, and the rest Christians. In these latter years the city absorbed 25,000 new immigrants, which led to construction of new neighborhoods. The municipal area extends over 11.5 sq. mi. (29.7 sq. km.). The city has broad avenues tracing the hill contours, with large apartment buildings occupying the western and central sections and industrial structures on the eastern one. The economy of Nazerat Illit was based on relatively large enterprises. In the early 2000s, its industrial areas included approximately 100 factories in various industries, such as food, textiles, electronics, steel, etc.

[Shlomo Hasson /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)


C. Kopp, Holy Places of the Gospels (1963), 49ff.; idem, in: jpos, 18 (1938), 181ff.; 20 (1946), 29ff.; M.J. Stiassny, Nazareth (Eng., 1967); Prawer, Ẓalbanim, index; M. Barash, in: Eretz-Israel, 7 (1964), 125–34 (Heb. section); A. Olivari, in: La Terre Sainte (Aug.–Sept. 1961), 201–6; M. Benvenisti, Crusaders in the Holy Land (1970), index; W.E. Pax, In the Footsteps of Jesus (1970), index. add. bibliography: B. Bagatti, Excavations in Nazareth, vol. 1, From the Beginning till the xii Century, tr. from Italian by E. Hoade (1969); B. Bagatti and E. Alliata, Excavations in Nazareth, vol 2, From the 12thCentury until Today, tr. from Italian by R. Bonanno (2002). Websites:;

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City nestled among the hills of Galilee. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament literature, or in the Talmud, or by Josephus. It is referred to frequently, however, in the New Testament because Jesus came from that city and was known as the Nazarene. Although it is called a city, it is quite small. The name is spelled in different ways in the New Testament. Most frequently it is Ναζαρέτ or Ναζαρέθ, but it occurs also as Ναζαρά, Ναζαράτ, or Ναζαράθ.

It was at Nazareth that the angel Gabriel brought to Mary the message that she was to be the mother of the Savior (Lk 1.26). Mary and Joseph left there to go to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Then the Holy Family returned to Nazareth after their flight into Egypt (Mt2.23). There Jesus spent the years of His hidden life (Mt2.23; Lk 2.39, 51). During His public life Jesus seldom visited Nazareth because He was not well received there (Lk 4.1630). That Nazareth was not highly regarded may be inferred from the question of Nathaniel, from neighboring Cana, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (Jn 1.46).

During the 1st century Nazareth was inhabited not only by Jews, but also by Christians, some of whom, it seems, were relatives of Our Lord. In the early 4th century Joseph of Tiberias had been commissioned by Constantine to build churches for Christians in the Jewish towns and villages of Galilee. We may suppose that he built a church at Nazareth because of the town's intimate connection with Jesus. In 634 the Muslims occupied Nazareth and made life difficult for its Christians. In the 12th century the Crusaders made Nazareth into an episcopal city, but it did not remain so for long, because the city soon fell back into the hands of the Muslims. The Franciscans established a convent in the city in 1390, but only since 1620 have they been able to remain there permanently. Since 1948 Nazareth has been within the confines of the State of Israel.

Of the many shrines commemorating events of the New Testament, the two most important are the House of St. Joseph and the Sanctuary of the Annunciation. In the preparations for constructing a new basilica over the spot where the Annunciation took place, a systematic excavation was conducted by B. Bagatti. He has shown that here, underneath the church built in 1730 by the Franciscans, which had been removed to give place to the new basilica, there was a church built by the Crusaders. Earlier than this, there was a 5th-century church that in turn had been preceded by a Christian structure from as early as a.d. 200. Numerous graffiti were found on the plaster walls and on the plastered surfaces of loose stones, made by early Judeo-Christians. Of special interest is one of the graffiti containing, in Greek, the opening words of the angelic salutation, "Hail, Mary."

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 161618. b. bagatti, "Ritrovamenti nella Nazaret evangelica," Stud. Bibl. Franc. Liber Annuus 5 (Jerusalem 195455) 544; Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928) 6:318333. s. saller, "Recent Work at the Shrine of the Annunciation at Nazareth," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (Washington, DC 1963) 348353. c. kopp, The Holy Places of the Gospels, tr. r. walls (New York 1963) 4986.

[s. musholt]

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historic market city and pilgrimage site in the galilee region of israel; the only all-arab city in the state of israel.

Nazareth (2001 population, 68,700) is located on the southernmost ridge of the hilly Galilee region of northern Israel, approximately 18 miles (30 km) southeast of the coastal city of Haifa. Its name in Arabic is al-Nasira, meaning "the one who grants victory." The city was conquered by Crusaders in 1099, taken by Saladin in 1187, and then retaken by Frederick II in 1229. Muslim forces led by Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt (12331277), recaptured Nazareth in 1263, massacring its Christian population. The city was virtually uninhabited for nearly three hundred years before being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The town gradually grew under the sponsorship of local and foreign Christian missions, attracting Christian Arab families from southern and coastal Palestine, the Hawran region of Syria, and what is now southern Lebanon.

Nazareth was an important administrative center during the British Mandate period (19221948) and was captured by Israel's pre-state military forces on 18 July 1948. Unlike in other Palestinian towns and cities, Nazareth's population was not displaced after 1948. The conscious policy of the Israeli military commanders in 1948 was to avoid violence and large-scale population displacements from this particular city. Immediately after the war, Nazareth's predominantly Christian population of 12,000 suddenly jumped to 18,000 with the arrival of more than 5,000 refugees, mostly Muslims, from neighboring Arab villages that had been destroyed during the hostilities. Overnight, Nazareth was transformed into the largest, densest, and most diverse concentration of Palestinians within the new state of Israel. Fifty-five years later, Nazareth's population had more than quintupled and Muslims greatly outnumbered Christians because of a higher Muslim birth rate and increasing Christian emigration.

The core of old Nazareth is situated in a long, bowl-like valley surrounded by several hills. Newer buildings and dense neighborhoods cover the hillsides above the old city, the elevation of which is approximately 1,200 feet (400 meters) above sea level. Well known throughout the Christian world as the home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and as the scene of the Annunciation, Nazareth is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims. The city boasts several churches, most notably the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation, completed in 1966, which is the largest church in the Middle East; the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (Gabriel's Church), constructed in the eighteenth century; and the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Synagogue Church. Nazareth is also a market town, a site of Arabic print media production, and home to several respected private primary and secondary schools administered by churches. It is known informally as the capital of the Arabs in Israel.

The municipality of Nazareth was founded in 1875. Until the mid-1990s, Nazareth housed the regional offices of state ministries and agencies, and the town's political life was dominated by a progressive political coalition, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (al-Jabba al-Dimuqratiyya lilSalam wa al-Musawa), made up of the Nazareth branch of the Communist Party, the Committee of Merchants and Professionals, and the Association of Arab University Graduates. From the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s, Nazareth was a political base for left-wing, secularist, and Arab nationalist political currents among Palestinian citizens of Israel. Natzerat Illit, a Jewish development town founded on lands expropriated from Nazareth and other surrounding Arab localities in 1957 as part of a government campaign to Judaize the Galilee, has a population of 47,900, of whom approximately 11 percent are Arab. Since the mid-1990s, government offices formerly located in Nazareth have been relocated to the administratively separate although geographically adjacent Natzerat Illit. In the late 1990s, as Nazareth's municipality was undertaking Nazareth 2000, a multifaceted urban renewal program, with help from the Israeli government and Israeli businesses, to prepare the city for the millennial festivities and a tourism boom, hostilities erupted in the old city of Nazareth when a Muslim shrine was obstructed by construction crews. The ensuing conflict resulted in rioting and violence, polarized Muslims and Christians in Nazareth, halted the urban renewal project, paralyzed municipal governance, and involved the Vatican, the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs, and the Palestinian Authority. In October 2000, Nazareth was again the site of violence, this time occasioned by pogrom-like raids into Nazareth by Jewish mobs from Natzerat Illit one week after the outbreak of the second Intifada. Three Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by police forces in the melée.

see also aqsa intifada, al-; palestine; palestinian citizens of israel.


El-Asmar, Fouzi. To Be an Arab in Israel. Beirut: The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1978.

Emmet, Chad. Beyond the Basilica: Christians and Muslims in Nazareth. University of Chicago Geography Research Paper No. 237. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Rabinowitz, Dan. Overlooking Nazareth: The Ethnography of Exclusion in the Galilee. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

benjamin joseph
updated by laurie king-irani

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Nazareth (năz´ərĬth), town (1993 pop. 53,500), N Israel, in Galilee. As the home of Jesus, it is a great pilgrimage and tourist center. Nazareth is also the trade center for an agricultural region. The town's manufactures include processed food, cigarettes, and pottery. Mineral water is bottled here and stone quarried nearby. Nazareth is first mentioned in the New Testament, although its settlement antedates historic times. It was captured (1099) by Crusaders, taken (1187) by Saladin, and retaken (1229) by Frederick II. In 1263, Muslims conquered Nazareth, massacring its Christian population. In 1517, Nazareth was annexed by the Ottoman Empire. The town was part of the British-administered Palestine mandate (1922–48) and was captured by Israeli forces in the 1948 war. Adjacent to it, Upper Nazareth was established as a Jewish residential town (1989 est. pop. 25,000). The Basilica of the Annunciation and the Mosque of Peace are in Nazareth.

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Nazareth a historic town in lower Galilee, in present-day northern Israel. Mentioned in the Gospels as the home of Mary and Joseph, it is closely associated with the childhood of Jesus and is a centre of Christian pilgrimage.
Nazarene a native or inhabitant of Nazareth or (chiefly in Jewish or Muslim use) a Christian; Jesus Christ is referred to as the Nazarene. The name is also used for a member of an early sect or faction of Jewish Christians, especially one in 4th-century Syria using an Aramaic version of the Gospels and observing much of the Jewish law.

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Nazareth Town between Haifa and the Sea of Galilee, n Israel. According to the Gospels it was where Jesus spent most of his childhood. Today, Nazareth is a place of Christian pilgrimage. Industries: tourism. Pop. (1997) 55,494.

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