Small-town life in the time of Jesus has been authentically recreated at Nazareth Village, just 500 metres south-west of the landmark Church of the Annunciation.
On hillside farm terraces growing olives, figs and pomegranates, visitors can encounter a shepherd tending his flock, a carpenter using his tools and a weaver demonstrating her craft.
As the seasons pass, a farmer breaks open the ground with a plough pulled by donkeys, crops are planted and pruned, olives are harvested and pressed, grapes are picked and crushed by foot, and wheat is cut and threshed.
There is a watchtower, a quarry, an irrigation system and a village synagogue that accurately replicates a first-century Jewish house of worship.
In this parable-rich environment, in-character villagers in authentic costumes demonstrate farming practices and talk about their daily life and work as they relate to the Gospels.
A working farm in Jesus’ time
Nazareth Village opened in 2000 as the fulfillment of a long-held vision of Dr Nakhle Bishara, medical director of the adjacent Nazareth Hospital and a local historian.
It occupies a 6-hectare site that was previously vacant hospital land. Archaeologists have confirmed the site would have been a working terrace farm in Jesus’ time, probably the property of a single extended family.
Scholarly research led by experts from the Jerusalem-based University of the Holy Land underpinned the project. Village buildings were erected in stone, using first-century construction methods.
An early archaeological discovery was an ancient man-made basin, cut into the bedrock, that was used for making wine. This level area where grapes were treaded had a channel leading to a pit where the runoff juice was collected.
Pottery from as far back as the Early Bronze Age — more than 2000 years before Christ — was found on the site.
Meals of first-century foods
Nazareth Village is a non-profit Christian enterprise. It is backed by an interdenominational collection of locals and international identities such as former United States president Jimmy Carter and singer Pat Boone, and volunteers from around the world join its staff for varying periods of time.
Tours of the village take about an hour and a half, beginning with displays giving the historical context of Jewish life under Roman occupation in the 1st century.
Special-event meals can be arranged for groups, in which typical first-century foods are served with fresh herbs and savoury flat bread in a stone dining area with arched spans.
A gift shop offers a range of products linked to the life of Jesus, including books, art, costumes, frankincense, nard and mustard seeds.
The authentic character of Nazareth Village has often attracted television and movie companies to use it as a setting for period productions.
Other sites in Nazareth:
Administered by: Nazareth Village Board
Tel.: 972 4 6456042; fax 972 4 6559295
Open: 9am-5pm (last tour begins 3.30pm); closed Sunday, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Independence Day, Christmas Day, December 26.
Kauffmann, Joel: The Nazareth Jesus Knew (Nazareth Village, 2005)
Pfann, Stephen; Voss, Ross; and Rapuano, Yehudah: “Surveys and Excavations at the Nazareth Village Farm (1997–2002): Final Report”, Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, volume 25 (2007)
Smith, David: “Where it happened”, The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, December 2007
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)