The ancient city of Zippori (Tzippori) is located on a hill, 269 meters above sea level, on the southern slopes of the Lower Galilee. It is surrounded by a range of low hills covered in Tabor oak forests, with fresh water springs that ebb on the south side of the city and plenty of arable lands. Another advantage, which made Zippori a major city in ancient times, is its proximity both to the coastal road (Via Maris) and to the road connecting Tiberias with the port city of Acre.
Zippori was apparently built in the 6th century BCE as a Jewish village; however, also between the Roman conquest of the Land of Israel in 63 B.C.E. and the Arab conquests in the 7th century, it was a central city for the Jews in the Galilee. Despite the mixed population that characterized Zippori during that period (first pagans and then Christians), the majority of the population remained Jewish.
In the period of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the same site as the ancient Zippori stood a fortressed city was called La’spori. It was from there, in the summer of 1187, that the Crusader army departed on its way to Karnei Hittin, where it battled against the Ayyubid army led by Saladin, and was defeated, thus bringing to an end the period of the Crusaders’ rule in the Land of Israel. In the 18th century, Daher al-Omar, the Bedouin ruler of the Galilee, fortified the Arab village of Safouriyeh and restored the Crusader fortress. In the early 20th century, the village was inhabited by Arab gangs that attacked the Jewish settlements in the area. The hostile village was conquered In the Israel War of Independence, and following the establishment of the State of Israel, the cooperative Israeli settlement of Zippori was built nearby.
Now the most prominent aspect of the ancient city is its main roads, built according to the classical grid pattern of a Hellenistic city. A central feature of the city is the major, colonnade-lined street (the Cardo), on each side of which are mosaic-paved paths and a row of stores.
The mosaic floors that were discovered in Zippori are magnificent and shouldn’t be missed. The Acropolis, the upper city, is where you can see the ruins of an ancient Jewish neighborhood, with Jewish ritual baths, a Roman amphitheatre, and the remains of an opulent villa, which houses splendid mosaic floors depicting the wine god, Dionysis. The view from the upper city westward looks upon the Monastery of Saint Anna and a crusader church. According to Christian tradition, this was where Hannah and Joachim, the parents of Miriam-mother-of-Jesus, lived.
The Museum of Zippori’s Archeological Excavations, which tells the story of the city, is housed in the Crusader tower restored by Daher al-Omar, at the top of the hill of Upper Zippori. From its rooftop there is a marvelous panoramic view of the city’s surroundings. With good visibility conditions, one can spot the peaks of the Hermon mountain. A brief walk through Zippori’s impressive ancient water reservoir is highly recommended. The water reservoir is a feat of ancient engineering, featuring a tunnel that brought water from the surrounding springs to the city; A walk through the tunnel is a wonderful way to end your tour of Zippori.