Last night I was tickled to see that the hummus bar was back. It is just that delicious that I spend time and space writing about it. I am thinking about recreating something similar for our Wednesday night selection.
Friday morning began with a wake up call at 6, breakfast at 7 and on the bus for Cana at 8. Cana is a rather congested town dedicated in part to celebrate the first miracle of Jesus – turning water into wine at a wedding. The village of Cana is only mentioned in the Gospel of John. The problem is that scholars do not agree as to whether this is the exact location of the original Cana. The Romans destroyed the original Cana during the great Jewish revolt around 66 AD. The Cana we visited today was one of three probable locations. Nonetheless it serves as an important place to reflect on the extravagance of God through this first miracle as well as the reach of God through the healing of the royal official’s son. We toured through the Church of the Wedding commemorating this first miracle.
We boarded the bus and traveled 15 minutes to the City of Nazareth. During the time of Jesus Nazareth was nothing more than a small, isolated village with just over 400 residences. It was religiously and politically unimportant, which is striking when we consider the world-wide impact Jesus has made in the lives of billions.
Today Nazareth bears a marked contrast to its former times. Densely populated, it is shared by Muslims and Christian Arabs. Our first visit was to St. Gabriel’s Church, the traditional location of Mary’s visit by the angel Gabriel. It is an Eastern Orthodox church where there are strict traditions regarding worship, attire, etc.
Inside St. Gabriel’s is a well which is the traditional locations where Mary heard and heeded the words from the Angel Gabriel announcing that she would be the mother of the Christ.
We made a 20 minute walk, which was in places a bit harrowing as cars zipped among us, to the Church of the Annunciation. Along the way some within our group strayed as they listened and at time patronized the many street vendors hawking their one of a kind items. Margaret Daniel stopped to have a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and while I waited for her another vender gave two “zalabyeh” – something like a small donut hole. He told me to share this with my wife, gesturing to Margaret. Margaret was quick to correct him that she was not my wife. I told her it is difficult to be a preacher’s wife.
We eventually made it to the church with the entire group intact. The art and modern architecture was stunning and proved to be a place of inspiration as it reflected nations from around the globe.
Our lunch centered on one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes (besides hummus) – falafel! Most of the group came into the local restaurant uninitiated, but left full and satisfied. While there I also enjoyed a glass of fresh pomegranate juice chased by a cup of Turkish/Arabic coffee. I am still getting the grounds out of my teeth!
Feeling full and sleepy we boarded the bus for a 30 minute drive to “Yardenid”, the traditional site alongside the Jordan River commemorating the baptism of Jesus. This year no one else wanted to commemorate their baptism, which was fine by me for a number of reasons, not the least of which it was cold. The additional rain had added to the ample water level, complete with flotsam to feed the prehistoric catfish. Okay, I am exaggerating a little, but not by much.
After a full day we made our way back to our hotel for our final night in Tiberius. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins tonight at sundown, approximately 5pm. Observant Jews will not press buttons on the elevator, use their light switches or any number of other “works” because to do so would break the Sabbath.
Our last night in Tiberias concluded with the usual delicious buffet accompanied by a full house of Jewish families celebrating and singing in the Sabbath. A father and his two sons sang for at least 20 minutes various religious songs in Hebrew – it was a real delight.
For each of us this has been an impactful time in getting too know the Holy Land and getting to know one another. Both are gifts. Tonight we pack up and leave for our hotel in Jerusalem. On the way we will spend much of the day in Bethlehem.
Please visit my vimeo site to watch the latest two videos of our “Holy Land Wanderings.” https://vimeo.com/#/home/myvideos.
Peace be with you all,