40km (25 miles) SE of Haifa
Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, and today the main city in the southern Galilee, was only a tiny hamlet in biblical times, scarcely recorded on maps or mentioned in historical works. Modern Nazareth, by contrast, is a bustling city, filled with industry and new construction. Only recently, with the restoration of Ottoman era mansions and markets in its old city, has Nazareth become more than a brief stop where visitors can check out the churches and shrines marking the life of Jesus.
The population of Nazareth is approximately 35 to 40 percent Christian and 60 to 65 percent Muslim. Along with Jerusalem, it’s the headquarters of the Christian mission movement in Israel, with more than 40 churches, convents, monasteries, orphanages, and private parochial schools. Nazareth’s very name is used by Arabs and Israelis to designate Christians. Just as Jesus was also known as the Nazarene, in Arabic, Christians are called Nasara, and in Hebrew Notzrim. Nazareth has long been the cultural and political center for the more moderate Arabic community in northern Israel. The city abounds with musicians, writers, filmmakers, local artists, small concerts and poetry readings.
The old town’s crop of interesting, atmospheric guest houses, cafes and eateries can help introduce you to Nazareth’s unique spirit. English is widely spoken, but the first language of most inhabitants of Nazareth is Arabic.