Day 17 - Galilee

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of Israel  , Jerusalem,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Up at 5:30 we were fetched by the tour bus just after 6 and headed towards Tel Aviv. It was interesting to see the city and it looked very beautiful along the coast line. Although its the economic hub of Israel it did seem to have a holiday seaside feel about it. We collected some more passengers and then headed off to Nazareth, our first stop and the village in which Jesus grew up. Our tour guide was great and pointed out significant things along the way and filled us in on bits and bobs about Israel. It really is a fascinating place historically and currently with the Arabs, Jews and Christians all living together and seeing it as a country filled with religious significance.
Nazareth is currently the biggest Arab city in Israel although there are many Jews also living in the area. In Jesus' time it was in fact a very small village. Our first stop was the Basilica of the Annunciation. The Basilica was built at the site where it is believed that the Virgin Mary was visited by Angel Gabriel and told that she would fall pregnant with Jesus. As with all these traditional sites it has been destroyed and built over many times. The very lowest level is an excavated site of the town. There is a well and some evidence of streets and houses. The lower level houses a crypt and is architecturally quite amazing with wooden beams built in a way to depict a lily (the symbol for Mary) and the beams form M's for Mary. There is also a part of a wall from the church that was there during the time of the Crusades. The upper level is the active church and on each wall there are artworks from artists around the world depicting Mary and the Angel. They are amazing. From modern three dimensional sculptures mounted on the wall from the US to an Asian Mary with Child in mosaics from Japan. We loved the individual creativity and beauty of them all.
Next we walked up a small path to a church built to honour Joseph, Jesus' father. It is a simple and small church also with excavated areas under it that show parts of a house, which could have been Joseph's house but there's no real proof of that.
We then hopped back on the bus and headed to the Sea of Galilee. It was once again an interesting drive and the guide explained that the Sea of Galilee supplies most of Israel with its fresh water. He also pointed out the Golan Heights which is where the Israelies pushed the Syrians back and took the mountain range during the 6 Day War.
--- Stopped at the place where the Sermon on the Mount took place, and the multiplying of fish and loaves ---
We stopped for a lunch at a spot alongside the Sea. Despite being a total rip off lunch (over R100 per person for a buffet salad bar) we did enjoy looking over the Sea of Galilee and putting our toes in and knowing it was such a significant place in Jesus' story.
Back into the bus we headed to Capernaum. We passed through Cana which is where Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast, believed to be His first miracle.
Capernaum is a significant town because it is believed to be the place where Jesus truly started preaching and teaching people about the new way. Capernaum is also believed to have been the home town of Peter. Like all towns the current buildings have been built over the remains of the old town. The church has been built over Peter's house and there is a glass panel in the floor that looks down onto the ruins.
Next door is an amazing synagogue which of course is not the one that Jesus preached in but could very well be in the same place as the original synagogue. It is impressive even in its dilapidated state and one can see by the size of the building and the use of expensive limestone rock used to build it that Capernaum was a wealthy town in its time. It was much bigger than Nazareth, for example. There were also great examples of excavated olive presses which show that it was the hub of production for products sold in the area.
Our last stop for the day was the River Jordan. The Bible explains that the River Jordan was were John the Baptist baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and God spoke declaring Him the Son of God. The spot we visited has been created for people to get to the River and is in fact not the actual spot where Jesus was baptized. Many people come to this spot, buy a white dress and wade in the river to be baptized. It was very interesting watching the people being baptized and you can see it is a very significant spiritual experience for them. We rolled up our pants and waded in. Hundreds of little fish swam around our toes giving us a little peck every now and then. We found it very entertaining. We did however feel sad about the fact that so much money is being made off this site as tourists stream into the souvenir shop and pay fortunes for little bottles of sacred water from the river, jewellery, and so on. It just felt all a bit wrong.
At 3ish we hopped back onto the bus and started our long journey back to the hotel. Our bus driver pointed out the actual spot where the baptism took place and there is a small domed building built at the site. Apparently it's only open twice a year and thousands stream there during this time to see it.
Driving back we really got to see the barren landscape and it made me really think about Jesus, His time in the Wilderness and what it must have been like in the days without highways and busses. Just doing the trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Census must have been so difficult. No wonder Mary went into labour!
We both agree that today's journey has really made us think about the Bible stories we have been told since children and the fact that these were actual people doing real life things. We're still debating whether we really connected with the spiritual side amongst the hundreds of other people all squeezing into the churches and holy sites but after some time to digest it all we may feel differently. So far Israel has been a very interesting and educational place. We are looking forward to getting salty at the Dead Sea tomorrow.
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Doryn on

must have been amazing

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