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The ancient pilgrim site at Kursi National Park

The complex at Kursi was discovered by accident in 1970 by workers constructing Route 869. Because of the importance of this discovery the site was made into a national park. Kursi is thought to be the site of the “Miracle of the Swine” described in the New Testament in three of the gospels. Discovered at this site were a Byzantine monastery constructed in the 4th century and this church has been partially reconstructed, a deluxe bathhouse for the use of pilgrims, and a chapel at the site of the Miracle of the Swine. A probable synagogue was also discovered, indicating that Kursi was the site of either a Jewish or Jewish-Christian community.

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Directions: Enter “Kursi” into Waze and click on “Kursi National Park.” There is a large asphalt-paved parking area.

Admission: This is a site of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. It is open Sunday to Thursday and on Saturday from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and Friday and holiday eves from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Closing is 1 hour earlier in the winter. Admission is one hour prior to closing. There is an admission charge. Drinks and snacks are available for purchase at the ticket office. There is a WC close to the ticket office. There are shaded areas for picnicking. By the monastery entrance is a recording in Hebrew or English explaining the significance of this site.

Public transport: Enter “Kursi” into Moovit and click on “Kursi National Park.” There is a moderately frequent bus line between Tiberias and Katzrin that stops at Kursi.

The church at the monastery at Kurzi

A visit to Kursi by a pilgrim one and a half millennia ago


A pilgrim to Kurzi during the Byzantine period would have disembarked at the nearby harbor on Lake Kinneret and walked by a dirt road to the monastery. The monastery was surrounded by a wall and by the entrance gate was a watchtower. From the entrance to the monastery the pilgrim could have taken the paved path ahead to the courtyard of the church. This path was constructed during the Byzantine period in the 5th century CE and would have led him or her to an outer forecourt and then to an inner courtyard built on top of a large cistern. An indication of this cistern is the two well heads you can see. This atrium led to the church itself. This was of a basilical type with two rows of columns separating the church into a nave and two aisles. On either side of the aisles were chapels and other rooms. Part of the mosaics from the church are still evident, mainly from the aisles, and show illustrations of local flora and fauna.

The pilgrim could also have chosen to go to the bathhouse to the north of the church before going to the guesthouse. This is the only bathhouse found inside a monastery and was quite luxurious with hot and cold water.

The pilgrim would also not have missed the main reason he came - to view the site of the Miracle of the Swine. The story is as follows. When Jesus and his disciples disembarked from the lake, they noticed a lot of swine grazing on the slope. They were also greeted by a person who was clearly mad and affected by a demon. The demons begged Jesus to release them from the man and enter them into the swine – which Jesus did. The swine now rushed down the slope of the bank into the lake.


On a hill to the north of the church is a small chapel sandwiched between a rock and a cave. The cave is believed to be where the demon-possessed individual lived and the rock is where the miracle took place. You can climb up to this point by a gravel footpath. The ascent is not suitable for a wheelchair or stroller.

There was also likely a synagogue in Kursi. We know this because a shattered marble slab carved with 8 lines of Hebrew Aramaic text was found in a building. The slab commemorated an individual who had made a donation to the building. It is not known whether the worshippers who used this synagogue were Jewish or Jewish-Christian.

The monastery was one of many religious institutions destroyed in 614 CE by Persian armies that invaded Israel. The site was partially rebuilt afterwards and was functioning even during the Muslim period, but was abandoned after a devastating earthquake in 749.

Site of the Miracle of the Swine

The rock is the site of the Miracle of the Swine

Links to the HOME PAGE and best family activities, hikes and historic sites in the GOLAN, EASTERN GALILEE, UPPER GALILEE, LOWER GALILEE, JORDAN VALLEY & LAKE KINNERET, the SHEFELAH, TEL AVIV-YAFFO and surroundings, NORTH of TEL AVIV, and SOUTH of TEL AVIV.

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