The Ancient City of Korazim

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Korazim, called Korzin in Aramaic, was founded in the 1st century on the northern, higher part of the hill on which it is located. Later, the city developed towards the south and west, and at the end of the 3rd century or the beginning of the 4th century, it reached its peak of prosperity. At that time its area extended over most of the hill, on an area of ​​about 70 dunams equivalent to 17.5 acres, up to the northern bank of Korazim brook. At that period, the synagogue and the town central quarter were built.

At the beginning of the 4th century, some of the city’s houses and the synagogue were destroyed, probably due to an earthquake. Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea in the 4th century, describes it then as a ruined town. In the middle of the 4th century, the town was rebuilt along the same footprint as it was built before the destruction, and existed continuously with repairs and additions, until the beginning of the early Arab period, in the 8th century. Then the settlement dwindled until the place was abandoned. In the 12th and 13th centuries, a small and sparse settlement was renewed in the place. In the 16th century it was mentioned as a Jewish village, and in the following centuries the name of the place was Khirbat Karaza.

Korazim is located 4 km north of the Sea of ​​Galilee and Capernaum. It was an important town that is mentioned in the Talmud in connection with the finest wheat, from which it was proper to bring the Omer to the temple in Jerusalem, if it was closer in distance to Jerusalem. The Omer was the first grain offering that the Israelites brought to the Temple, from the first ripening barley at the beginning of Passover as commanded in Leviticus chapter 23 (9-14).

Korazim was founded as a Jewish city, according to the purification facility and the synagogue that were discovered there. The city of Korazim was built of basalt stones as you can see all around. Along the hill, from the highest part to the slopes of the settlement, a street runs from north to south and southwest. This central street is connected to the east and west by streets that divide the city into quarters. In the center, on a wide natural surface, the central quarter including the synagogue were built.

In terms of water supply – There is a lot of precipitation in this area. The rain that falls here is collected using cisterns and together with the water from Korazim brook, both sources provided the water consumption of the town. It seems that the central quarter consisted of six large buildings arranged in two rows, three buildings in each row and they were arranged from east to west.

In the northern building, there is a Mikveh which is a purification bath in Judaism. It has two steps above the ground and seven steps below the ground. The roof is made of very impressive basalt slabs, each 2m long.

Near the Mikveh, below the surface is a cistern 3 by 6 meters, and in its center is a column that supports its stone ceiling. There seems to be a connection between the cistern and the Mikveh.

This cistern may have been the “treasure”, meaning, a reservoir of a natural flow of water needed for a mikvah. When the cistern was filled, the excess water flowed into the Mikveh. A covered water channel was integrated into the stone paving of the surface which probably received its water from the roofs and led it to the cistern.

In some of the existing buildings in the area, there are stones arranged in a form of “wall cabinets”, that were discovered here in Korazim for the first time and they are called “Korazim’s windows”, you are probably asking yourselves what they were intended for, and I will disappoint you by not having a clear answer, I would love for you to write what you think they were intended for; any idea is welcome.

We are in front of the impressive synagogue. I will mention that there is a dedicated video on the synagogue in Korazim, so I will discuss it only briefly. The front of the building, facing south, towards Jerusalem, is a beautiful part of the building. According to the original plan, to its south, there is an open space in front of the synagogue. From the open space, visitors will go up with the help of nine steps to the 3 entrances of the synagogue, which today has only two entrances and I explain the reason in the video about the synagogue. The central, large opening was decorated with a magnificent gable which is found here.  As in the other Galilee synagogues, here too, the central opening was wider and higher than the two openings on its sides.

We will now visit two very impressive arches houses from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, that is, from the Mamluk period, and I will only mention that the houses were built on foundations from the fourth century. The two houses with the arches have survived almost completely. The buildings are characterized by three double arches which are placed on stone beams.

A row of windows, which we have already met, was built in some of the inner walls. This is a unique form of construction that was discovered for the first time in Korazim and was named “Korazim’s windows”. What their role was, it is not clear, please use your imagination.

You can also see narrow windows in each of the walls, which allowed air and a light to enter the house. Let’s go to the edge of the western quarter where the remains of an olive oil production facility were found. Here we have the basin broken into three parts, and two squeezing facilities, one from the 4th or 5th century and the other was found lying on the pavement and was used until a late period probably until the end of the 19th century.

On the southern edge of the ancient northern part of the city, another olive oil production facility was discovered, which is well preserved. We are inside a room built on a lower level than the rest of the city. You can see a very large basin for crushing the olives and the wheel that turned inside it and next to it a square stone basin to receive the oil that was pressed. The crushing stage product is crushed olives. These were transferred to what is called in Hebrew “akalim”, they are baskets braided with rope or fibers. The baskets were smeared with the crushed olives, and a number of them were placed on top of each other, and in this case the squeezing to extract the oil was done with the help of a screw device made of wooden beams, parts of which can be seen here, I am referring to the finding of its base. This is similar to many other devices of the same period. The olive oil production facilities were set inside the city, because it was possible to transport the olives into the city without effecting their quality, in contrast to the grapes that had to be handled as close as possible to the place of their harvest.

In the southwest, the hill descends steeply to Korazim brook, which surrounds it from the west and south so that it naturally defined the boundaries of the town. Due to the natural protection from the south, east and west, and due to the differences in topography, the settlement was connected to an access road from the north. This road crossed the Jordan river where it empties into the Sea of ​​Galilee, and connected to the main road that continued towards Damascus.

See the beautiful mosaic surface. In 2019, a sixteen-square-meter winepress was discovered here, decorated with a mosaic floor, which dates back to the third to fifth centuries. Adjacent, are two houses of wealthy families. Each house has an inner courtyard, living rooms, cisterns and storage rooms. Between the two buildings runs an alley paved with rounded stones, with a trough and a cistern. Some of the rooms were covered with stone beams, 2m long. Arches were built along the walls and they supported the ceiling.

I hope you are impressed as I am from Korazim. And to conclude, as usual, I have a question for you. Near the synagogue, a group of over 400 coins was found. What period are the coins from? Hint: the answer appears in the video named “Korazim Ancient Synagogue”, and the answer will also appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Ariel: A journal for the knowledge of the Land of Israel - the Sea of ​​Galilee and its surroundings in the Christian tradition, Editors: Gabriel Barkay and Eli Shiller, Publisher: Ariel
  2. Book: Forgotten Architecture, Author: Michal Moshe, Publisher: Ariel, University in Samaria
  3. Book: The new Israel Guide, book 4 – The Lower Galilee and its shores and the Kinarot Valley, Publisher: Keter
  4. The new encyclopedia for archeological excavations in Israel

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