*In 1989, Mendel Nun came to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, five kilometres north of Ein Gev, to a small peninsula that extends out into the sea.He noticed that roughly parallel to the shore was a small valley about three kilometres long and half a kilometre wide. It continued underwater, and he found that it was known locally as ‘the bank of Kursi’. He discovered that it was the best sardine fishing ground in the lake.
The valley and its bank make up the delta of the stream that descends from the Golan Heights. The Arabs called it ‘Wadi Samak’, or ‘stream of fish’. In the past the stream bed served as a road to Damascus via the Golan Heights. The ruins of a fortress from the First Temple period (3000 years old) were found partway up this valley in Khirbet Dajajiyya. A Crusader document refers to the road in an account on warfare written in 1217.
The valley of Kursi where our dig lies has abundant water, fertile soil and fishing grounds so it is easy to believe that it has been inhabited from time immemorial. The mouth of the canyon is unique and looks like an armchair, which may be where the name Kursi came from; a chair in Arabic.
At the close of the Second temple period, Kursi was part of the domain of the greek city of Hippos, but its name does not appear on a list of fully Jewish villages required to pay tax to the temple of Jerusalem. This may mean that the place was also occupied by gentiles.
Early Christian monks venerated Kursi as the location of the Miracle of the Gerasene Demoniac and built a monastery and church there.
THE FISHING HARBOUR
According to Nun, after the six day war in 1967, the remains of a Jewish settlement gradually came to light. In 1970 a survey was made around Tel Kursi near the shore. Divers discovered an ancient anchorage under the water. A breakwater jutted out from the shore, curved slightly for 150 metres and rejoined the shore, encircling an area of about 1500 square metres. The Anchorage, made of black basalt stones, was about 100 metres long with a maximum width of of 25 metres.
This was Nun’s early drawing.Credit – Mendel Nun.
The Anchorage is the heart of a complex of facilities that make up a fishing village according to Nun. He found some stones that he believed were part of a public building with a mosaic floor. At the northern end of the site he found what he thought might be the synagogue of Kursi: Synagogue of Yonadav ben Rehav in Kursia over the lake of Tiberias as mentioned in the list of holy sites for Jewish pilgrims – a kind of Jewish guide for pilgrims from the 11th century.
The New Testament according to Mathew, Mark and Luke place Kursi in the Land of the Gerasenes where Jesus exorcised a man (or maybe two) of a legion of demons, which he then drove into a herd of domestic pigs (further evidence that this was a non-Jewish site or a mixed site). The pigs fled down the cliff and into the sea where they drowned.
*Reference: Gergesa (Kursi) Site of a Miracle Chruch & Fishing Village by Mendel Nun, published by Kibbutz Ein Gev , Tourist Department and Kinnereth Sailing Co.1989.