Shefaram (Shfaram, Shafa-Amar, Shefa-‘Amr, Shfar’am – שפרעם) is an Arab Moslim-Druze city east of the bay of Haifa, and the site of an ancient Jewish-Roman city which was the second Galilee site of the Sanhendrin in the end of the 2nd Century. This city is located at the western hills of the Galilee (100M height), 8 KM away from the bay of Haifa, on the road to Nazareth.
It is strategically located close to the road that split from Via Maris, the main North-South highway, towards the east (center Galilee, and Jordan). This eastern fork passed through the city (towards Sepphoris, Yafia and Nazareth) and through Iblin, 2 KM to the north, towards Netufa valley and the sea of Galilee.
In the Roman times this was a village, one of many agriculture villages in the area. Its location on the western hills, close to strategic roads, made it important. During the Roman times (150-163AD) the Jewish religious and administrative leadership, the “Sanhedrin”, moved to this city. It was its second Galilee location after the destruction of the temple (the first was Usha, about 2 KM south; the 3rd was Beit-Shearim).
The Crusaders fortified the city in order to protect the pilgrimage road from Acre to Nazareth. They named the fort “La Safran” and was controlled by the Templers. After defeating the Crusaders, Saladin had his headquarters in the city to control the region and as a base against the last Crusaders’ stronghold in Acre.
In the 18th C, during the Ottoman period, a Bedouin called Daher El-Omar, captured the city and made it his headquarters (1751-1767) before taking Acre as well. He built the fort (1771) that stands today in the center of the city, in the highest place, probably above the ruins of the Crusaders fortress. He also built 4 towers (Burj), where only the west one remains to date.
The citizens changed the name to Shafa-Amar (health of Amar) in his honor, since according to their tradition he was cured by waters of the local well.
In the city lived several Jewish families from the 16th C until 1920, which is quite rare in Israel.
Due to the massive building in the 20th C, most of the old sites are gone; only the larger buildings survived.
Record of a synagogue in Shfaram dates to the mid-18th century when Bedouin chieftain Dhaher al-Omar gave permission to the Jews to return and renovate the ancient house of prayer there. Although being abandoned, the keys to the former house of worship are held by a local Muslim and the synagogue is treated with respect by the local Arabs.
St. Peter & St. Paul Church in Shefaram
We toured the Greek Catholic St. Peter & St. Paul Church, located on one of the town’s peaks in the old city, with our friend, Father Said Hashem. The church was built by Ottoman the son of the Ottoman ruler Daher al-Omar. Masses are conducted in the church in Arabic and because the Greek Catholics are a majority in the city it is considered the main church of the city. During the years 2010-2011 the church went through a major improvement. It has a high bell tower and a large purple dome.
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The Greek Orthodox Church in Shefaram
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Shefaram
The Anglican Church in Shefaram.
Preparations for Christmas in Shfaram
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