Kursi was a fishing village from the time of the Mishnah and the Talmud. It includes the ruins of a 5th Century Byzantine Christian monastery and church, the largest monastery ever found in Israel, covering an area of 170,000 square feet and a marble-lined bath-house . The monastery was totally devastated by the 749 earthquake and was abandoned in the eighth century, never to be rebuilt. Kursi was uncovered only in new road work in 1970 after the Six Day War when the Golan was incorporated into Israel. An archaeological expedition, headed by V. Tsaferis and D. Urman, on behalf of the Department of Antiquities explored the site. Since 1982 the monastery is part of Kursi National Park in the Golan Heights.
A small chapel was unearthed near a promontory, whose apse was incorporated into a cave. Christian tradition identifies the cave as the place where Jesus met and healed the man with the unclean spirits.
The Decapolis, where Kursi is located, was populated by Gentiles in the times of Jesus. Kursi is identified by Christian tradition as the site of the “Miracle of the Swine”, where Jesus drove the demons out of a possessed man and transferred them to a herd of swine. The herd of about 2000 swine rushed madly down the hill and into the Sea of Galilee, where they drowned. (Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28–34, Luke 8:26-39). This miracle is said to be the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the Gentiles. The site of this miracle has undergone some debate.
With all those pigs, I wonder if the water in Lake Kinneret is still kosher?
Kursi National Park
A bench in the park, known as “the magic bench” attracts many visitors, some of whom say special wishes they have made while sitting there have come true.
Directions: Kursi National Park is located 5 kilometers north of Ein Gev, off Route 92. Turn right (east) at Kursi Junction (Route 789) for about 50 meters.
Visiting Hours: October -March – 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM April – September – 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Accessibility: Kursi National Park has a large parking lot and a handicapped toilet. A ramp accesses the church. Moving around the church is more difficult due to the rough ground but with some help wheelchair visitors can tour the site and enjoy the archaeology and the story.
Park entry fees apply.