Nazareth has come a long way since its days as a quiet Jewish village in Roman-ruled Galilee, so if you’re expecting bucolic rusticity be prepared for a surprise. These days, Israel’s largest Arab city is a bustling mini-metropolis with shop-lined thoroughfares, blaring car horns, traffic jams and young men with a penchant for showing off at the wheel. The Old City, its stone-paved alleys lined with crumbling Ottoman-era mansions, is in the process of reinventing itself as a sophisticated cultural and culinary destination.
According to the New Testament, it was in Nazareth (al-Naasira in Arabic, Natzrat or Natzeret in Hebrew) that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to inform her that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God, an event known as the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38).
Like Capernaum, Nazareth and its residents were treated rather dismissively in the Gospels. The disdainful words of Nathanael of Cana, ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ (John 1:46) are believed to reflect most Nazarenes’ lack of enthusiasm for their town’s most famous preacher.
Everything in Nazareth is open for business on Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday). On Sunday, on the other hand, while attractions and pastry shops are open, stores and most restaurants are not.