Kfar Nahum National Park

Capernaum
The town’s name, meaning ‘Village of Nachum’, is of obscure origin. Capernaum appears prominently in the Gospels.
Stones from the Synagogue
Enter and turn right at the ticket office. The six-pointed star today known as the Star of David was not then a Jewish symbol. Here the six-pointed star appears next to a five-pointed star. Look for representations of some of the seven species with which the Land of Israel is blessed (grapes, pomegranates, date palms, and olives). (Deuteronomy 8:8)
One stone shows a pair of pillars similar in design to those found at Hamat Ti0_36 CapernaumFlowers 3berius, a motif also found in Roman temples. The Aramaic inscription refers to a donor. The next stone depicts a temple on wheels, perhaps representing the tabernacle that travelled with the Jews in the desert. Continue around to the area below the church.
New Testament References
Jesus chose this small but important fishing town as his baset “Leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea” (Matthew 4:13) where he cured many people. Jesus entered Capernaum and a certain centurion’s servant who was dear unto him was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus he sent unto him the leaders of the Jews beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus they besought him instantly saying that he was worthy for whom he should do this for he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue. (Luke 7:1-10) The daughter of the head of the synagogue was also healed (Luke 8:47-55) as was the mother of Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:74-75). In Kfar Nachum’s synagogue Jesus declared: I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever, and the bread that I give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:51-59) Despite the miracles Kfar Nachum’s Jews rejected Jesus, and he cursed them, ‘And thou Capernaum which an exalted unto heaven shall be brought down to hell, for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom it would have remained to this day.’ (Matthew 77:23-24).
The Church
Tradition holds that this was Peter’s house. It served as a meeting place for believers during Christianity’s formative years. One hundred thirty-one inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic, Syrian, and Latin, many including Jesus’ name, were discovered in the plaster. The octagonal building was enlarged over the years. This is the only building in Kfar Nachum found with a mosaic floor; in front of you a fragment of it is on display. The sign in front of the mosaic explains the stages of the building’s construction as they were uncovered by archaeologists. In the middle of the fourth century alterations were made to the house; it was enlarged and separated from the town by a wall.
In the fifth century all the private homes of the insula (“city block”) were destroyed to make way for construction of the church. Preserving the house’s original shape, the church was octagonal with an apse and a baptistery in the centre (as is illustrated in the sign’s bottom diagram). In the seventh century the town was apparently abandoned and the site forgotten until the Franciscans bought the land in the late nineteenth century.
The Franciscans conducted archaeological excavations and stored the synagogue and the church. Recently they built
modern church over the site of St. Peter’s house. The glass floor in the centre of the church allows you to look into the original church below.
The Synagogue
This is the second largest Byzantine synagogue to be found in Israel. Historians disagree on the date of its construction, though they agree it was built long after the time of Jesus. Its white limestone, brought to Kfar Nachum from some distance, contrasts with the local black basalt. The lintels’ ornamentation includes geometric designs, plants, and animals; a stone eagle, later destroyed by iconoclasts, hovered over the entrance. Pillars in “IJ” formation supported the second floor and the roof. The inside walls were plastered and the floor was of stone. The congregation sat along the walls facing the centre, where the Torah was probably read. A large room and courtyard, possibly the house of study, stood adjacent and to the east of the synagogue.
History in the Light of Archaeology
The archaeological finds raise interesting questions. When was the synagogue built?Who paid for it? Kfar Nachum’s houses were simply built of local basalt, no signs of wealth were discovered, yet here stood an impressive synagogue built of imported stone. Did a friendly Roman help (see above, Luke 7:1-5), or perhaps Julian the Apostate? Kfar Nachum is the only place where a large synagogue was found next to a church. Considering the tension between Jews and Christians under Byzantine rule, their proximity is remarkable. ‘Was there a special relationship between Jews and Christians here?
The following are some conjectures:
1. Kfar Nachum’s Jews and early Christians enjoyed good relations.
2.  Kfar Nachum was a Jewish town. Byzantine rulers built the church to consecrate Peter’s house, but there was no indigenous Christian population.
3. Kfar Nachum was a Christian town. Local “tourism promoters’ wanted to show pilgrims the synagogue Jesus cursed. The original synagogue was nowhere to be found, so they brought one from elsewhere.
The display of finds on the path to the parking lot includes an olive press and a Roman milestone dating from Emperor Hadrian’s reign (second century). Another stone bears a shell motif common to synagogues and Roman temple entrances. The capital on the tall pillar has a candelabrum flanked by an incense shovel and ram’s horn similar to those on Hamat Tiberias’s mosaic floor. The boat portrayed in the mosaic, taken from Migdal, resembles the boat preserved at Beit Allon.