The Young Girl From Zippori

´╗┐Zippori the historic capital of the Galilee, is located in the center of the lower Galilee, 5km west of Nazareth. The city is mentioned many times in Talmudic literature and is known to have been populated mostly by Jews during the Roman and Byzantine periods (1st - 7th Centuries CE). Literary sourc6s and archaeological finds indicate that the city was also populated by pagans, heretics and Christians.

During the Hellenistic and early Roman period (2nd and 1st Centuries B.C.E), Zippori was situated mainly on the hilltop and along its slopes. Private domiciles, most of which included ritual baths (mikva'ot) had been constructed close together on the hilltop. Early in the 2nd Century CE, the city spread significantly eastward, where an impressive network of streets running in gridwork-fashion with two colonnaded streets in their center was constructed. Various buildings, public as well as private, were erected along these new streets and in other parts of the city. The buildings existed throughout the Byzantine period. Among the public buildings revealed so far at the site are the bath houses, a Basilical hall, a theatre, two churches and a synagogue.

Many mosaics (over 30) decorating public as well as private homes of the wealthy have been unearthed in Zippori. The most important mosaics were discovered in the Dionysiac building, the Orpheus building, which date from the Roman period, the Nib Festival building and in the synagogue constructed during the Byzantine period. This group of mosaic pavements which varies in composition, style and chronology has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the mosaic art in our region and its development over the years. The mosaic floors in Zippori rank with Roman and Byzantine mosaics found throughout the empire. Such a rich and colorful concentration is almost unknown in any city in our region. This leads us to conclude that Zippori may have functioned as a center for mosaic art during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The image of the woman in Zippori was integrated into a series of medallions that decorated the central mosaic parlor floor in a large 3rd Century CE building located on the top of the hill. The mosaic includes details relating to the image and rituals of the wine god Dionysos.

The woman depicted on the stamp is exceptionally beautiful. She is adorned with a laurel wreath and earrings. Her image is one of the finest ever to be discovered in mosaic form anywhere in the world. The artist succeeded in creating a portrait of a woman who appears to be looking at everyone, or as Rabbi Yohanan said in the Midrash "A portrait - a thousand men look at, each and every one of whom says: it is looking at me" (pesitka Rabbat 21).

Written by Dr. Zeev Weiss and Prof. Ehud Netzer from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The stamp was issued in 1998 as a one stamp souvaenir sheet for the World Stamp Exhibition - Israel 98. Designer: G. Sagi.