Nazareth is in the Northern District of Israel. Its population is around 76,000 who are predominantly Arab Israelis, of whom 69% are Muslim and 30.9% Christian. Nazareth Illit is built alongside old Nazareth, and has a population of about 42,000.
Researchers believe that a cult centre at Kfar HaHoresh, near to Nazareth, dates back to around 9000 years to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B era. The remains have been found buried under huge horizontal headstone structures, some of which weigh up to 3 tons. Human skulls uncovered there have led archaeologists to identify Kfar HaHoresh as a major cult centre. Pottery dating from the Middle Bronze Age and ceramics, silos and grinding mills from the Iron Age (1500 to 586 BC) have been found.Israeli archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth that date to the time to the early Roman period. A tablet at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, dating to 50 CE, was sent from Nazareth to Paris in 1878. It contains an inscription known as the “Ordinance of Caesar” that outlines the penalty of death for those who violate tombs or graves. It is not certain where it came from. It is thought that Nazareth was a predominately Jewish settlement in the Roman period. A Hebrew inscription found in Caesarea dating to the late 3rd or early 4th century mentions Nazareth as the home of the priestly Hapizzez family after the Bar Kokhba revolt.
In 1099, the Crusader Tancred captured Galilee and established his capital in Nazareth. The ancient diocese of Scythopolis was also relocated under the Archbishop of Nazareth, one of the four archdioceses in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The town returned to Muslim control in 1187 following the victory of Saladin in the Battle of Hattin.
Zahir al-Umar transformed Nazareth from a minor village into a large town by encouraging immigration to it. Nazareth played a strategic role in Zahir’s sheikhdom because it allowed him to wield control over the agricultural areas of central Galilee.
Nazareth was temporarily captured by the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, during his Syrian campaign. Napoleon visited the holy sites and considered appointing his general Jean-Andoche Junot as the duke of Nazareth.
After the Ottomans regained control, European money continued to flow into Nazareth and new institutions were established. The Christians of Nazareth were protected during the massacres of 1860 by Aqil Agha, the Bedouin leader who exercised control over the Galilee between 1845 and 1870.
In the late 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, Nazareth prospered as it served the role of a market center for the dozens of rural Arab villages located within its vicinity. In 1914, Nazareth consisted of eight quarters: ‘Araq, Farah, Jami’, Khanuq, Maidan, Mazazwa, Sharqiya and Shufani. There were nine churches, two monasteries, four convents, two mosques, four hospitals, four private schools, a public school, a police station, three orphanages, a hotel, three inns, a flour mill and eight markets. The Ottomans lost control of Palestine, including Nazareth, to the Allied Powers during World War I and Nazareth’s importance declined.
By 1946, the municipal boundary of Nazareth had been enlarged and new neighborhoods, namely Maidan, Maslakh, Khanuq and Nimsawi, were established. After 1948 a large Jewish town Nazereth Elit grew alongside old Nazereth and was designated a separate municipality in June 1974.