Tags: nazareth | israel | arab | capital | muslim | christian

Nazareth, Israel's Arab Capital: Facts About Muslim, Christian City

Image: Nazareth, Israel's Arab Capital: Facts About Muslim, Christian City
In this January 2002 file photo, Palestinian youths stand in front of the site where a controversial mosque was under construction, in front of Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 11:37 AM

Troubled by ongoing religious tension, Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, has gone through tremendous change during the past six decades, moving from a predominantly Christian population before Israel’s establishment in 1948 to today when about 70 percent of its residents are Muslim.

The recent changing demographics of Jesus’ childhood home date to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence when many Muslim refugees relocated to Nazareth. But that wasn’t the first time the city has experienced religious disruption. Nazareth was a site of contention during the Crusades, and Christians were expelled from the city in the early 16th Century, after the Ottoman Turks took Palestine.

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In the 1990s, an empty lot next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, which marks the site where Christians believe an angel told Mary she was carrying the son of God, became a point of contention. Muslims wanted to build a large mosque there, and the decision led to street fights between Christians and Muslims. The mosque project was abandoned, and the site was developed as a public square, which many Muslims use for midday prayers.

Another site of contention is the city’s well, which dates to New Testament times. Known as St. Mary’s Well, Jesus’ mother is said to have drank from the well. Muslims removed a sign detail the well’s history, and began referring to the site as “Nazareth Stream,” the Times of Israel reported.

Along with the Church of the Annunciation, the largest Christian house of worship in the Middle East, Nazareth has numerous other historical churches and museums. Among them are Gabriel’s Church, thought by Greek Catholics to be the site of the Annunciation; the Synagogue-Church, on the site where Jesus preached; the Church of Joseph, on the site of Joseph’s carpentry shop; and the Mensa Christi Church, where Jesus is believed to have dined with the Apostles after his Resurrection.

Nazareth also is a budding center for technology startups, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“Arab tech is very interesting, and it’s obviously starting to get more momentum, more people involved,” said Clyde Hutchinson, founder of the Ireland Israel Business Network, The Jerusalem Post reported.

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Troubled by ongoing religious tension, Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, has gone through tremendous change during the past six decades, moving from a predominantly Christian population before Israel’s establishment in 1948 to today when about 70 percent of its residents are Muslim.
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