I have two words for you – hummus bar. It is just that delicious and so I am thinking about adding a new food selection for Wednesday night dinners. I will ask Rodger Murchison what his opinion is when I get back. Speaking of food, several of us went out to make a falafel run but all the vendors had closed their stands, so I came back to the lobby to work on this blog. To my surprise and delight a DJ had set up a turntable and along with a partner began crooning to us some strange version of Hebrew disco. You just don’t see that every day in Augusta!
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 visted 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 traidtions regarding worship, attire, etc. When we arrived there was a group in worship therefore we were forbidden to go inside. I certainly understand. I know that I would not like to watch a tour group go through our sanctuary while in the middle of Sunday morning worship.
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 the listened and at time patronized the many street vendors hawking their one of a kind items. 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.
Following our visit to these two churches we enjoyed a lunch at the Kibbutz Mizra, the only non-kosher kibbutz in all of Israel. The only way they are allowed to raise pigs is to do so on a platform above the soil. Therefore today no swine touch the ground of Israel. I decided to pass on the bacon, however, and settled into some meatballs and potatoes followed by a well needed boost from an outstanding cup of espresso.
We spent the afternoon at Nazareth Village, an exhibit of Nazareth as it would have looked in Jesus’ day. Our folks in the group really enjoyed this part of the tour, even though at first glance many were concerned it would be a bit contrived and perhaps cheesy. Actually, it was well done and helped provide a better picture of the life and times of Jesus.
After a full day we made our way back to our hotel for our final night in Tiberias. 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 nuumber of other “works” because to do so would break the Sabbath.
We formally ended our evening by meeting, sharing and praying together as a group. 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.
Peace be with you