Sights and Insights: A surprising visit to Nazareth

Dr. Wayne Stiles was skeptical about the Nazareth Village, but it turned out to be a favorite stop for his fellow travelers.

Image of land 311 (photo credit: Cathy Stiles)
Image of land 311
(photo credit: Cathy Stiles)
Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at
I entered the tourist site with a heavy dose of skepticism. After all, my passion for coming to Israel and helping to lead tours is to show the inseparable connection between history and faith. We go to ancient sites to connect them with biblical events. We tend to avoid tourist traps.
Photo; Cathy StilesPhoto; Cathy Stiles
So, to spend time meandering through a place where people dress up in costumes like some Christmas play sounded to me to be . . . well, let’s just say I thought we could spend the valuable time somewhere else.
To my surprise, our time in the Nazareth Village proved to be one of our guests’ favorite stops in the Galilee. The village transported us back two thousand years and gave us a taste of the first century in a place where significant events actually occurred.
As we entered through the rock doorway, I had to look hard to find anything that looked modern. Sheep pens, burning oil lamps, cultivated fields, reapers with sickles, shepherds with flocks, hand-hewn caves with foodstuffs—all served to help us visualize life as it was during the Roman Empire.
Photo; Cathy StilesPhoto; Cathy Stiles
Based on considerable research, the village is designed to portray first-century agriculture, clothing, foods, and building techniques. We entered a life-sized synagogue and discovered how it remained cool in the heat of summer. A huge millstone showed how a donkey would have circled to crush the wheat. A wall-sized loom allowed a woman in period dress to describe how multicolored fabrics were woven. Terraced walkways and smooth paths made it easy for all ages to explore.
Because I love woodworking, my favorite moment was the carpenter shop. I could not imagine making furniture without my table saw, router, and orbital sander. And yet, the carpenters of Galilee used a variety of ingenious hand tools to produce everything from practical implements to heirloom pieces. The carpenter toiled over a crude workbench and gave new meaning to the term wood-working.
Photo; Cathy StilesPhoto; Cathy Stiles
Archaeology at the site of the village has unearthed pottery shards that date from the early Roman period. The excavators even discovered a wine press carved from the bedrock.
Blending history, archaeology, and loads of creative imagination, the Nazareth Village effectively transports both children and adults to the first century through a creative blend of environment, education, and inspiration. The gift shop even gave us each a replica oil lamp as a souvenir.
Although I never would have expected it, the Nazareth Village did what no other tourist stop had—it portrayed what life was like in a sleepy farm village in century-one Galilee.
We’ll go there again.
What to Do There: An audiovisual display provides a fine introduction to the village. Take lots of pictures! You’ll be surprised how good they turn out. Take the guided tour and imagine yourself in century-one Nazareth.
How to Get There: Take Route 60 to Nazareth and turn right on Route 75. Turn left on A-Shuhada road. Park in the large parking lot of the Nazareth YMCA. The Nazareth Village reception is located on the second floor of the YMCA.
Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at