Pilgrim's Crossing, will
spotlight places that may be of special interest to
visitors journeying on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The remains of Kursi include the largest monastery
ever found in Israel, covering an area of 170,000 square
feet. Built during the time of the Byzantines, around
the fifth century A.D., the complex included a church
paved with colorful mosaics and supported by massive
columns. Archaeologists also discovered a smaller chapel
situated high on the rock overlooking the rest of the
remains, accessible via a footpath leading up the
hillside. This is, no doubt, the spot where ancient
pilgrims commemorated the miracle of the cleansing of
the possessed man, by Jesus
After the Six Day War in 1967 construction began on a
new road from the Eastern Shore of the Sea of Galilee up
to an old Syrian outpost in the Golan Heights. A local
fisherman keeping tabs on the work noticed remains of
pottery and carved building stones at the road site. He
notified the Israel Antiquities authorities, whose
intervention halted the construction of the new road.
The contractors were furious but the road was eventually
rerouted in order to preserve the site of what is now
known as Kursi.
Kursi is mentioned in Mark 5:1-13 as the place where
Jesus drove the demons out of a possessed man and
transferred them to a herd of swine. The swine rushed
madly down the hill and into the Sea of Galilee, where
they drowned. Scholars believe that the swine from the
story were probably a domesticated variety of wild pig
native to the area, which had long front legs enabling
it to swim. This feature proved very useful, as the wild
pigs instinctively ran towards water whenever they
sensed danger. The new variety retained the same
instinct but was bred with shorter front legs.
Consequently, when the herd on the hillside fled to the
water the pigs were unable to swim and drowned.
During Jesus' time the Eastern Shore of the lake was
populated entirely by non-Jewish villages; therefore,
Jesus visited there very infrequently. Most of his
ministry around the lake was spent at the Jewish farming
and fishing villages on the western shore. Kursi was
clearly not a Jewish village, since swine were being
raised there and the Jewish dietary laws forbid the
consumption of pork. However, the Gospels state that
sometimes, when Jesus wanted to get away, he went over
to the Eastern Shore.
In the continuation of the story from Mark, the
possessed man begs Jesus to go with him as he pulls away
in the boat. Jesus instructs him, instead, to go home to
his family and tell them of the Lord's mercy on him. The
man told the story all over the Decapolis, the
non-Jewish region to the east of the lake, and people
were amazed to hear it. It appears that this story may
provide evidence that the spreading of Jesus' message to
non-Jews actually began here, on the slopes of the Golan
Heights, long before the death of Jesus and the rise of
Those who are unable to visit Kursi may be interested
in a program known as the Jubillenium Candle Site. Honor
someone close to your heart (or an event) by placing an
order for a candle via the Internet or by mail. A candle
will be lit and placed in a specially designed glass
holder and will burn for 24 hours. The Israel Nature and
National Parks Protection Authority and the Jubillenium
organization, jointly coordinate the program.
Kursi National Park is located 5 kilometers (3 miles)
North of Ein Gev, off Route 92. Turn right (East) at
Kursi Junction (Route 789) and look for the turn-off
sign to the site, after about 50 meters.
Visiting Hours: October -March - 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
April - September - 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Park entry fees apply.