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According to the new Testament, Jesus' birth was announced to Mary in Nazareth. Jesus was brought up in the town, and although he did almost all his preaching outside of Nazareth, he was known in his lifetime as "Jesus of Nazareth." Early Christians were contemptuously called "Nazarenes" by their enemies, and the Hebrew and Arabic terms for Christian are derived from the town's name.
During the first centuries of Christianity, Nazareth does not seem to have had a Christian community, but by the sixth century a church had been established in a converted synagogue.
During the Crusades the town was repeatedly fought over by the Crusader and Muslim armies, changing hands several times. In 1263 it was totally destroyed and remained in ruins for 400 years.
Only towards the middle of the 18th century was the city rebuilt. By the early decades of the 20th century the population numbered some 8,000, both Muslim and Christian, and served as a market center for the surrounding Jezreel Valley as well as a pilgrimage and tourist center.
In July 1948 the city was captured by the Israel army and remained in Israeli hands after the armistice was signed. Its population was rapidly augmented by Arabs who had left other locations, to the extent that it became, prior to the Six-Day War of 1967, the largest Arab center in the State of Israel.
By 1991 it had a population of 53,600 made up of Muslims and Christians. In 1957 Nazerat Illit, a Jewish development town was built in the heights overlooking the city. It developed rapidly, becoming a center for large industrial enterprises. and in recent years has served as one of the main absorption centers of new immigrants, particularly from the Soviet Union. In the early 1990s it had some 30,000 inhabitants.
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