Shefaram Burial Caves
A Sunni Muslim and Druze city of 35,000, located 12 miles east of Haifa Bay, Shefaram is known for its richly decorated ancient burial caves. Today, Christian tours to the Holy Land visit Shefaram, also known as Shfaram or Shafa-Amar, to see the these caves, which have been hewn from rock and adorned with Christian symbols. The burial caves are on a rather steep hillside south of the Crusader fortress that was originally built in Shefaram to protect pilgrims making the journey from Acre to Nazareth.
Dated from the 5th and 6th centuries, the burial caves are found in the Christian minority portion of Shefaram in the yards of private homes. Pilgrims are advised to visit the site with a knowledgeable guide. Once you are at the site of the burial caves, look for the inscriptions, written in Greek, which prevails upon Jesus to have mercy on the family of the inscriber.
Although some of the tombs are not decorated at all, you’ll see many other engravings hewn into the rock of at least three of the burial caves. The engravings include lions, birds, snakes, various types of flowers, crosses, two-handled jugs known as amphorae, pomegranate trees and vines.
Some of the caves can be entered, and it’s possible to see and photograph the decorative touches on the inside. On one cave, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega, flank the bottom of a cross. This is said to represent the idea that God is eternal – covering all time from the beginning to the end.
Shefaram was at one time a Jewish village as well. After exploring the burial caves, travelers might consider stopping at the ancient Jewish cemetery, located on the other side of the village.