Kursi (also known as Kursi National Park), along the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, is identified in Christian tradition with Gadarenes, where the Miracle of the Swine took place, according to tradition. A large church and monastery stood at the site in the Byzantine period. It was destroyed by invading Persians in 614 C.E. and, after being rebuilt, was destroyed by fire a short time later. The site remained neglected for most of the following 1,300 years.
Kursi is also known as “Gergesa”
According to Christian tradition, Kursi is also called “Gergesa.” But what is Gergesa?
Gergesa (also known as Gergasa or the Country of the Gergesenes), is a place on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee (Golan Heights) located at some distance to the ancient Decapolis cities of Gedara and Gerasa. In modern times, Gergesa is called “El-Koursi” or just “Kursi.”
“Gergesa” is mentioned in some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew as the place where Jesus performed the “miracle of the swine”. Jesus carried out this exorcism to drive out demons of two possessed men and into a herd of pigs. While all three Synoptic Gospels mention this miracle, only Matthew mentions that there are two possessed men instead of only one, and in his Gospel he mentions the location as Gergesa. The other versions of Luke and Mark, on the other hand, refer to the location as either “Gadara” or “Gerasa.”
Rediscovery of Kursi and Kursi as a national park
In 1970, Kursi was rediscovered by accident in the course of construction. Archaeologists identified the site with Kurshi, a center of idol worship mentioned in the Talmud. Excavations later uncovered the ruins of the largest Byzantine monastery ever discovered in Israel, including a church, baptistery, oil press, fortifications and nearby chapel, possibly dedicated to the actual site of the miracle.
There is also a mosaic floor. In the nearby chapel, thirty male skeletons were also discovered at the site, probably belonging to Byzantine monks.
Most of the site is wheelchair accessible, although some help may be needed in the church.
Since being opened as a national park, Kursi has elicited considerable interest among Christian pilgrims. See Kursi National Park
Getting to Kursi
Road 92 – Sea of Galilee eastern coast road – five kilometers north of Kibbutz Ein Gev.
If you are going to Kursi by car, then enter “Kursi National Park” into your Waze or Google Maps and it will take you there. As you have reached Kursi, you will find a free parking lot just near the entrance.
If you are reaching Kursi by public transport, take the bus to Kursi junction (the Line No. 51, for instance).
If you plan to visit several national parks in Israel, it is better to purchase a combo ticket. Check out this National Parks and Nature Reserve post for more information about this.