Our visit to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee
Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
18Trip End Dec 04, 2013
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Day 3 in Israel found us traveling north to see the town of Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan. Surprisingly this day turned out to be the most religious in its feeling. Maybe it was simply the lack of crowds and extreme commercialization near the visited sites.
The River Jordan is significant as it seen as being the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Surprisingly the river is really more like a creek; it is small. Also, although this is viewed as the site where Jesus was baptized, they are not sure about that. Because of where St. John was from, it might be more likely that Jesus was baptized further south, nearer to the Dead Sea. Today it is used actively as a baptismal site. While we were there there were several groups performing baptisms in the river. People don white garments, walk into the river up to their waists and are immersed 3 times in the waters
We next visited the church built on the summit of the hill near where Jesus is thought to have given the sermon on the mount and fed the crowd with the loaves and fishes. That sermon focused on the eight beatitudes ( do you remember them?). The church design is unique in that it is eight sided to reflect the eight beatitudes. The church overlooks the Sea of Galilee and is surrounded by some beautiful gardens. It is peaceful and serene.
By the way, the Sea of Galilee is not all that large. It is the only fresh water lake in the country and they rely on its water for drinking and other critical uses.
The last stop was a drive through Cana (the site of the first miracle-turning water to wine at a wedding) to go visit the site of the Annunciation (Mary being told she would give birth to Jesus). As expected there is a modern church there, the largest in the Middle East. We were told it was a simple church with little decor, but when we saw it we were impressed with its design. It is actually built in two levels. The lower level contains the grotto where it is thought Mary was visited by the angel who told her about the upcoming event
The actual church is on the second level. Another beautiful feature is the dome of the church which is decorated with flower petals, signifying purity. On the walls surrounding the church are very large mosaics that were donated by countries around the world, each interpreting the Virgin Mary in a different manner. They are stunning. We both felt this was one of the most unique and beautiful churches we have been in.
Other than the church, Nazareth is not much to look at. Another factoid told us is that there is nothing in historical records to document the life of Jesus while he lived in Nazareth. They know very little of his life there.
So we bid farewell to Israel. Every one of our tour guides thanked us profusely for coming to their country. The people were gracious and I feel sorry for them having to live in fear because of their neighbors.