Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. It’s known as “the Arab capital of Israel.” The population is made up predominantly of Israeli Arabs, and about thirty percent of that population are Christians (30.9%). Nazareth Illit (lit. “Upper Nazareth”) is built alongside old Nazareth, and had a Jewish population of 40,312 in 2014. The Jewish sector was declared a separate city in June 1974.
Although not mentioned in the Old Testament, this city was home to Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39), and it was here that Angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary the conception and birth of the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). Here Jesus grew up from infancy to manhood (Luke 4:16); and here He began His public ministry in the synagogue (Matt. 13:54), at which the people were so offended that they sought to cast Him down from the precipice whereon their city was built (Luke 4:29). Twice they expelled Jesus from their borders (4:16-29; Matt. 13:54-58), and finally, He retired from the city, where He couldn’t do many mighty works because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:58), and took up residence in Capernaum.
One conjecture holds that “Nazareth” is derived from “netser,” one of the Hebrew words for “branch,” and alludes to the prophetic, messianic words in Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Alternatively, the name may have derived from the verb “natsar” which means to “watch, guard, keep,” and understood either in the active sense of a watchtower or guard place, indicative of the vantage position of the early town on the brow of the hill, or, in the passive sense of a preserved or protected place in reference to its secluded position. In Luke’s Gospel, Nazareth is first described as ‘a city of Galilee’ and home of Mary (Luke 1:26-27). Following the birth and events in the life of the young Jesus in Luke chapter 2, Mary, Joseph and Jesus “returned to Galilee, and to their own city of Nazareth” (Luke 2:39). In English translations of the New Testament, the phrase “Jesus of Nazareth” appears seventeen times.