Tzipori was a Jewish City for about 2,000 Years / DR.R.S.Lissak

Tzipori was a Jewish city from the 12th century BCE until the 5th century CE, but a Jewish community survived until the 11th century within the Christian majority. Jews lived in Tzipory around 2000 years. The Arabic village Sefuryia was established in the 16th century.

Tzipori is today an Israeli village. It was established in 1949 by Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria and Turkey. Latter, they were replaced by Jews from Romania.

The Israeli Occupation of Canaan (about 1200 BCE)

Tzipori is mentioned in the Bible (Judges,1,30 ) in the territory of the Zebulun tribe. It was built on the site of the city of Kitron. Tzipori is mentioned in the Mishna as a walled city, during the Joshua period.

The First Temple Period (1000BCE- 586 BCE)

Tzipori was settled during the First Temple period. After the division of the kingdom of David and Solomon into 2 states it was part of the Northern Kingdom.

The Second Temple Period ( 538 BCE – 70 CE)

Tzipori was populated during the time of Ezra and Nehemya (6th -5th centuries BCE), by Jews from Babylonia who settled their after the Cyrus Declaration. During the Second Temple period Tzipori rose in importance, becoming the administrative centre for the Galilee during the Hasmonean period (167 BCE – 63 BCE).
In 63 BCE the Land of Israel was conquered by the Roman general Pompeius, and the Roman proconsul Gabinius transformed Tzipori into the capital of the Galilee Province. Tzipori continued to be the regional capital during Herod’s time (44 BCE – 4 BCE).
Tzipori participated in the revolt that erupted after Herod’s death (the Varus Wars), and was consequently destroyed and its people enslaved by the Romans. It was rebuilt shortly thereafter by Herod Antipas, King Herod's son, and for a while became his capital city.
Josephus Flavius describes Tzipori as the “Splendour of the Galilee”. Tzipori learned from the lessons of the Varus Wars, and during the Great Revolt (66 CE – 70 CE) was the only Jewish city in the Galilee that did not join the revolt and remained loyal to Rome.

The Roman Period (70CE – 324 CE)

Following the destruction of the Temple, refugees from Jerusalem and the Priests family yedaya settled in Tzipori. The Roman Caesar Hadrian turned Tzipori, after the failure of the Bar Kokba revolt (132-135 CE), into a polis, under control of the non-Jewish population, although the Jews comprised the majority of the population, and renamed it Dio-Caesarea. The Jews continued to reside there. Latter the Jews regained control of the city council.
At the end of the 2nd century CE, the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish judicial body during the Second Temple period and shortly thereafter) moved from Bet She’arayim to Tzipori. Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, the president of the Sanhedrin, sealed the Mishna (collection of oral laws which formed latter the basis of the Talmud) in Tzipori in 220 CE. He died there two years later and was buried there. Tzipori continued to house the Sanhedrin until Rabbi Yohanan moved it to Tiberias. Tzipori continued to serve as a centre for Thora studies, and its Rabbis participated in the creation of the Jerusalem Talmud, which was sealed in the 4th century CE. Tzipori was considered a large city for its time, and was home to 18,000 Jewish residents.

The Byzantine Period (324- 640)

After Caesar Constantine adopted Christianity, he sent Joseph "the Comes", a converted Jew, to build a church in Tzipori, but the Jews prevented him from doing so and forced him to leave.
In 351 CE, a revolt broke out against Gallus, who had been promoted by Caesar Constantine II to rule the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. This time, Tzipori Jews led the revolt. They wiped out the Roman garrison in the city and seized its weapons. The revolt was brutally crushed, and according to Christian sources the Romans destroyed the city as punishment for its participation in the revolt. However, there is no archaeological evidence of such destruction.

During most of the Byzantine period, the Jews remained the majority, although the number of Christians was on the rise. Tzipori was destroyed in an earth quake in 363 CE, and was only partially rebuilt. The Jews were the largest community in the city until the middle of the 5th century CE. From that time on, Tzipori became mostly Christian, although a Jewish community continued to exist. Tzipori became the home of a bishop.
Between 1931 and 1985 archaeological excavations were held in Tzipori. It was discovered that the city was divided into 2 parts: the ancient Jewish town and the Roman- Byzantine town in which Jews and non- Jews lived. The Roman- Byzantine town was first built in the beginning of the Second century CE.
Tzipori had 18 synagogues. The remains of a synagogue from the 3rd or 4th century CE were unearthed. The mosaic floor of the synagogue is decorated with a menorah and other Jewish symbols. Also the remains of houses with mikves (ritual baths) in each dwelling, which shows they were inhabited by Jews.
An ancient Jewish cemetery was discovered where RabbiYehuda Hanassi is buried in a magnificent tomb of hewn stone.
In the Roman-Byzantine town, the Cardo (main street) with its shops was unearthed, a Roman theatre with 4,500 seats, a large mansion from the 3rd century, and a villa of the Byzantine period, called "house of the Nile Festival."
On the top of the hill there is a citadel which was built on the ruins of a Crusaders' citadel in 1745.

The Arabic-Muslim Period (640 – 1099CE)

Some time during the Arabic period, Tzipori’s name was changed to Sefuryia and became a small town. From a 10th century letter found in the Cairo Geniza, (archive of Jewish letters) we learn that during the Middle Ages there was still a small Jewish community in Tzipori. The Muslim Geographer Albakri (11th century) mentioned a Jew and a Jewess slave
from Tzipori. There is a version that the Jews of the city were murdered by Muslims some time before the end of the period.

The Crusade Era (1099 CE – 1290 CE)

Tzipori was renamed Sepphoris, and a church named after Mary’s parents Anna and Yehoyakhin was built there. Part of the church survived to our day. A citadel was also built in Tzipori on the ruins of the Roman citadel, and the city became part of the Galilee Principality.
Benjamin of Tudela (a Sephardic- Jewish traveler) visited the city in 1170 and found there a Jew, a descendant of the Jews of the second Temple period.
Sepphoris became a base of the Crusaders' army during the wars
Against the Muslims, and its citadel was destroyed after the Battle of Hattin, in 1187 between the Crusaders and Sallah A-Din, but the town continued to exist.

The Mameluk Period (1260 – 1516)

Tzipori was conquered by the Mameluks' (Turkish- Muslims) ruler Baibars, in 1263. He turned Sepphoris into the Galilee Principality throughout the Mameluke period.

The Ottoman Period (1516 –1918)

The Arab village Sefuryia was established in the 16th century. It was mentioned in a letter, in 1561, by a Jewish traveler named Gershom. The citadel was rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century by Taher El Amar, the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee (Al-Amar conquered the Galilee and other parts of the country from the Ottomans in 1739 and was defeated in 1775). .

The British Mandate period (1918 – 1948)

According to the Nakba web site, 2,582 Arabs lived in Sefuryia in 1922. The number grew to 3,147 according to the British Mandate census. Most of the residents were Muslims (11 Christians). The village consisted of 747 houses. The number 3,147 included the Bedouins of the Hujirath and Hajara who lived near the village. According to the Nakba web site the number of the village residents grew to 5,023 in 1948.
During this period Sefuryia was a centre of nationalistic unrest. Its population participated in the Arab Revolt of 1936 – 1939 against the British rule, and in the Arab struggle against the Jewish settlements during the Mandate period and after the 1947 UN resolution.


The residents of the village were active in 1948 against the Jews, and the village was conquered by Israeli forces during the "Dekkel (Palm tree) Operation" in July 1948. Some of the residents fled to Lebanon and most of Sefuryia villagers were removed to Nazareth. The village was demolished, and the Israeli cooperative settlement (Moshav) Tzipori was later built on its ruins.


The resettlement of Tzipori by Jews serves as a closure and marks the return of Jewish residence to Tzipori, a city that was Jewish for almost 2000 years. The Arabic village Sefuryia existed only about 500 years.

In 1974 the archeological excavations area was turned into a national park and in 1992 a visitors' center was opened in which a video on the history of Tzipori is open to the public. There is a Museum where many of the findings are displayed.

Recently the “Supreme Supervision Committee of Israeli Arabs" began holding every year, a “return procession” from Nazareth to Tzipori, as part of commemorating the "Nakba", the disaster of 1948. The procession is intended to commemorate the demolition of Sefuryia, the Arabic village.
During his visit to Sefuryia on May 3, 2006, M.Barake, a Knesset member, whose family's origin was Sefuryia, told a Maarive reporter that the population of the village was 65,000 (vs. 5,023 in the Nakba web site).

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