|Nazareth, campus of the Church of the Anunciation|
|Views from St. Peter's Primacy Church, Sea of Galilee|
Today was a busy day. We left at 5 am for the North -- to visit the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights, and the biblical cities of Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Migdal (Magdala) and to see the river Jordan in the North.
We began our travels with a scenic route that brought us by the Valley of Megiddo (Armageddon) and Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was in conference with Elijah and Moses. The Mountain was awash in rain and thunder, and I could feel, with a shiver up my spine, how it seemed the place such an occurrence would happen. It was both beautiful, fascinating, and humbling, even from a distance. It was also surreal to look at the Valley of Megiddo, now so picturesque and fertile after all the recent rains, and think upon it awash in blood for the final battle. Pretty mindblowing.
We continued to the city of Nazareth, now broken into two districts: Nazareth (lower) and Nazareth Ilit (upper). The lower city is Muslim controlled, the city on the heights is Israeli. We would need to visit the lower city to see the birthplace of Mary, and the home she lived in when she was visited by the angel Gabriel, about her task of bearing Jesus. There were several beautiful churches marking these events: The Church of the Annunciation, the Basilica for Mary, and a Basilica for St. Joseph, which included the workshop of Joseph -- presumably where Jesus apprenticed and worked as a carpenter/craftsman, before beginning his Ministry.
From there, we drove through the scenic upper Nazareth, and on to Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding. This is now also a Muslim controlled town, with many mosques. There was a Greek Orthodox church to mark the spot of the wedding, but we didn't stop to investigate it.
We drove on through the picturesque countryside, stopping here and then to get tidbits of local history and to just rest and absorb the beautiful rolling hills and mountains. As we approached the Sea of Galilee we stopped for a coffee and snack break. The Arabs were running the coffee shop, so pastries were available (no pastries in Jewish shops for obeyance of Passover) and we had a little time to just chat about the current history of Israel and the ongoing conflicts with the Muslims.
We continued on to the Sea of Galilee, and to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, at the base of the mountain where Jesus gave the Beatitudes (there was a chapel there built during the Byzantine era that the Crusaders took apart, and rebuilt at the top of the mountain -- better real estate!). The little chapel at the edge of the "sea" was so charming-- and the Sea, well, it was absolutely breathtaking. The water was in a constant color change from the fast-moving clouds -- one minute, steel grey, the next, bright aqua blue, moving into a navy blue when the sun crept behind the cover. The flowers, the breeze, the clean, sparkling vista -- it was just sublime.
We stayed there for a while so I could record some impressions, notes, and color studies. Personally, I could just pitch a tent there and stay, but we had to move on to other places and the day was starting to wear into late afternoon.
We decided to explore the ruins Capernaum, which is now a beautiful site of Roman and Hebrew relics, with a Church and a Synagogue on site. The ruins are very impressive, with maps of the whole area clearly delineated, and are extensive enough to get a good idea of what the city looked like in the time of Christ.
A little while later, we lunched at a restaurant right on the Sea, and no, I did not eat the St. Peter's fish, haha. I decided on some lamb kebobs and different salads, and for dessert, dates and Turkish coffee.
After, I took a leisurely stroll around the area, and many families were happily eating and picnicking together, looking very contented. It was a happy sight, for Easter Monday -- although these were all Jewish folk, they were enjoying their Passover time together as well.
We moved along the coast to a Kibbutz called Ein Gev and stopped in there momentarily to look around, and take some photos of their piers and boats, etc. as well as chat with the residents.
We toured through the Golan Heights, visiting the spot that Jesus cast out Legion, and the herd of swine ran down the slopeside into the waters and stopped there for a little bit for a leg stretch.
Our last official stop was to visit the Jordan River in the North, another popular spot for Christian baptism, although that was not our purpose for the visit. This place was pretty but a bit touristy, with hundreds of people flocking to pay the $40 to buy a kitschy white robe with a screenprint of the Crusader cross or some other such thing on it, and get a dunk in the deep green of the river by either a Pastor of their choice, or the Pastor at the resort, who was there, in mechanical order, dunking one person after another. The lady in charge was extra angry, thinking we were trying to jump the line or get baptized without paying, but we assured her we were just there to watch. Daniel thought this was hilarious, and he asked me, "Would God mind?" I said, "With her around, everyone pays $40 to get baptized in anger!" We all had a good laugh over it.
We sat outside a while, and we discussed the other baptism site I had visited the other day, in the desert, and he was amazed the guide was venturous to bring us. "You know, that is considered the authentic site, but there are still active land mines there." I nodded, recalling the stern warnings of "lest you go ka-boom", but I was glad he brought us anyway.
We ended our touring late, about 9 pm, was when we finally returned to Jerusalem. I was pretty exhausted by that point, ate a hasty meal, and just fell into bed. But, it was a lot of ground to cover, and I'm glad we, as we say in the States, "got r done!"