Woe to the Impenitent Cities!
“Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum,who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you’” (Matthew 11:20-24).
Korazim National Park is north of the Sea of Galilee where it is hot and very dry. There are ruins of the city and a large synagogue which has been reconstructed and preserved.
The city was built from the local basalt stone of volcanic origin which is extremely hard and difficult to cut so whole rocks were used for construction.
The synagogue of Korazim and remains of the city comprise a whole complex that gives a glimpse into the daily life of Jewish people in the past, their customs and daily religious practices.
Jesus spent much of his time in ministry in the Galilee region and Korazim is one of the cities mentioned in the Gospel which was condemned for lack of faith.
The etymology behind the name Korazim may derive from the Hebrew word karoz (announcer).
The city was settled in the 1st century AD and existed until the 4th century AD, probably destroyed by the strong earthquake of 363 AD in accordance with the prediction of Jesus. Eusebius, the church father and historian writes about the tragic end of the city in his description of the Holy Land Onomasticon.
Korazim was restored in the fourth century and the synagogue dates to that period as attested by the cache of coins found among the ruins. There was a settlement at the site in early Moslem Arab period and in the 13th century. At the entrance to the site is the tomb of Sheikh Ramadan.
At some point, Bedouins camped here, as well as around the Sea of Galilee where have been found. After 1948, Korazim was completely abandoned.
A ritual immersion bath (mikveh in Hebrew) was found on the site, typical for Jewish settlements of that period and likely a public factility. It is made of two parts: a bathing room entered by steps and covered with big basalt stones and a water cistern that supplemented the rainwater in the pool.
The synagogue is in the middle of the village and was also built from the local basalt stone, measuring 23 m ( 75 feet ) long and 17 m ( 55 feet ) wide. It has a large facade and richly decorated gable. The entrance faces South like all the ancient synagogues in the Galilee region. Surprisingly, many of the carvings and reliefs depict animals and creatures adopted from the Greek mythology. Many of them were defaced, perhaps by the Arab Moslems who kept the commandments against idolatry much more seriously than the Jews of that period.
There are two reconstructed dwellings in Chorazin and their style prove they belonged to the wealthy people. The houses encompassed large area and included many rooms and different installations to mill flour and a rolling stone in order to iron the earth of the floor and roofs against leaking.
There is also a replica of a basalt chair found here, probably for the head of synagogue. These seats are called the "Seat of Moses" in Jewish tradition.
The inscription on the side of the seat says: "Remembered for good Yudan, son of Ishmael who contributed this colonnade and its stairs from his property. May he have a share with the just."
This seat brings to mind the famous words of Jesus when He rebukes and criticizes hypocrisy of religious leaders of His time,
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’” (Matthew 23:1-10).
(to be continued...)