We entered Nazareth and I am again in awe of our bus driver. When these towns and cities were built, no one considered huge buses, (they didn't exist!) and the ever-thickening traffic makes for an incredible challenge. But Good-Deal did well. We parked at the base of a hill in downtown Nazareth and began to walk up to the Church of the Annunciation. This is the site of Mary's home, and where she was visited by the Angel Gabriel. But first we must pass this sign. Read the warning, and note the church in the background.
Remember that it is a against the law to proselytize, but this large sign is allowed to remain. And despite Muslims not wanting to have this church built (it was a relatively new church) the Muslim store owners hawk their Christian wares. I find that an odd contradiction, but one cannot find fault with their manners. They are very polite.
I also find it interesting that everyone here, Muslim and Christian, speak Arabic. And I also learn that Nazareth means 'Off-shoot', as in a small shoot coming from the root of a tree and I think back on how Jesus was called the
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Isaiah 11:1. A fitting town for Jesus.
Soon enough, though, we are faced with another dilemma. A dress code. But this time, it's the men. A few of them, my husband included, have their shorts showing their knees, and this is a no-no. So it's off to the rent-a-sarong shop. With a deposit of one of the men's passports, they are equipped to visit the church. Naturally, as the good wife that I am, I snapped a photo as they go through dress check.
Now, I'm not being flippant here, but rather am enjoying the irony in the men not properly attired for a change. And we know perfectly well that we must respect the rules. This is a Holy Site. And I am pleased that we could all enter it together.
As with most Holy Sites, speaking is forbidden, but thanks to our Whispers, Rafe was allowed to whisper to us about this church. The altar sits in front of what looks like a grotto, that is, a cave. But we will soon learn that Israel is besieged with caves and many are inhabited year round. In fact, houses are built in front of caves sometimes. And it was most likely in this cave that Mary received the news she was to give birth to Jesus.
After leaving the church, which was designed specifically to showcase this miracle, our menfolk retrieved the passport, and we were told we are now going to a Nazareth Village.
It's kind of like an Israeli pioneer village.
It was there we learned
about wine presses, why grapes were crushed with the feet, (so as not to break the seeds) and the
various stages of olive oil pressing. We learned how the three presses of oil,
each one using a heavier stone and more crushing than the last, can be
likened to the three times Jesus awoke his disciples in the Garden of
Gethsemane. It was a moving experience to hear. At the end of the tour, we entered
Israel's only first century synagogue.
Well, it's a replica, but that's okay. We received a wonderful Aramaic blessing from a man with a powerful voice! Gives me shivers just to remember it.
One thing that was important to note was the wine press was large and when Jesus was alive, the harvest was a celebration and everyone came to the wine press. Since this press was only a few hundred metres from Mary's home, it's likely that Jesus was there as a youth.
As a thank you gift, we received a small clay oil lamp. The final press of oil was used for lighting households in lamps similar to the ones we were given.
It was dark when we arrived at our latest hotel, Nof Ginosar, run by a kibbutz right on the Sea of Galilee. We were welcomed with a cool drink of juice and a cookies and figs. Supper was a sumptuous affair in a relaxed dining room. I had the fish (it seemed appropriate) with loads of salads and even tried persimmon for the first time.
Afterward, we had a meet and greet. We are a very diverse group but seem to be coming together well. The internet is spotty, so I am realizing that sharing my experience with my loved ones will have to wait.
It was after 10 before we returned to our room. I'm looking forward to seeing the area in the daylight.