Nazareth

Yafia (Joffa of Nazareth)

It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia (Yafia). (Joshua 19:12)

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Yafia

Description:

Yafia is an Arab village next to Nazareth. It is located three kilometers southwest of Nazareth on the road to Haifa. During the Roman times it was a prominent city in Galilee, but now it is part of Nazareth, after its decline during the Byzantine period. Yafia is home to four churches in the section called “hill of churches.” This hill honors the birth place of Saint James, a disciple of Jesus Christ.

There are remains of a magnificent Byzantine synagogue spanning 15 meters by 19 meters. Visitors can still see the mosaic floor which used to display twelve circles representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Two have been uncovered and are in the Israel Museum located in Jerusalem.

History:

Yafia, or Jaffa, was under Megiddo rule in the Bronze period and was also mentioned in The Amarna letters. The Amarna letters were clay tablet archives dating back to 14th Century BC Egypt. They called Yafia “Yapu” on these historic tablets.

The Bible records that a portion of the land attributed to the tribe of Zebulun included Yafia (Joffa). This is found in the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. Though the Jews lost control, the name Yafia means “beautiful and magnificent,” which suggests to the modern visitor the exquisite stature of the village before the Byzantine decline.

There is an ancient road, one connecting the Valley of Jezreel and Sepphoris (the regional capital of Galilee), which could have run through Yafia. If this is the case, Jesus Christ would have, by necessity, walked this road many times. Though the location of this road is debatable, it is still likely that Jesus Christ walked through or visited Yafia many times throughout his 33 years on earth.

Yafia

Yafia History

The famous Jewish historian Josephus Flavius lived in Yafia (Jopha or Joffa) for a little while and even played a huge role in fortifying the village (Josephus was also a General in the Galilee army) during the revolt against Rome in 67 AD. He also records in his annuls of Jewish history that it was a largest city in Galilee and was fortified by thick, strong walls. Unfortunately, he also writes that Yafia was the site of a violent clash between the Roman Empire and the Jewish tribes (Galileans in Josephus’ War of the Jews – Book 3). Josephus records the bloodshed and the fact that no male was left alive over the age of one. Over 17,000 Jews lost their lives or were sold into slavery, and the city was in ruins. Yafia did have a period of growth for a short time but then resumed a decline.

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