This morning began bright and early- on the bus to leave for the Galilee at 6:15! And even better is that my roommates and I all missed our alarms and I jerked awake at 6:08. Good morning! Obviously I ran around our room for about 2 minutes like a chicken with its head cut off, but then I calmed down and got my stuff together. It was definitely a tender mercy that we had all packed the night before. I’ve never seen us all move so quickly before-- it was like we were all in hyper-speed mode. Even Robin with her hurt ankle was speedy! I’ve never been so proud. Anyways, we made the bus right on time (which I think is very impressive), and we were on the way to Nazareth! En route to the city we stopped at a place called Beth She’an. There were some pretty cool ruins there... yay! I actually love ruins, Roman or otherwise, so it was fine with me. Beth She’an was an important crossroads city, and the name means “house of safety.” It is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 31 as the place where Saul’s head was displayed after he was beheaded. Lovely. Nonetheless, it was a very nice collection of ruins with a theater, bath houses, and Roman toilets (our personal favorite).
I loved Nazareth. Granted it was a little more commercialized and whatever, but I still liked the sites there. We first visited the Church of the Annunciation, commemorating the angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary and telling her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ. It is a fascinating church because on the outside it looks very traditional in the sense that it will be either romanesque or gothic style on the inside, but the inside is very modern architecture. It is all exposed cement with interesting use of supports, kind of like an exposed skeleton of the building. It was very beautiful, just an interesting juxtaposition between the exterior and interior. On the ground floor was a big open area around an altar to Mary, then the ceiling was open to the second floor and the big dome. The second floor was the more traditionally arranged worship area with pews and an altar in the front. One thing I liked about this area was the variety of artwork of Mary donated by all of these different countries around the world. It was interesting to see their depictions of the mother of Jesus Christ and what aspects of the story they emphasized. Just around the corner from the Church of the Annunciation is a church dedicated to Joseph and his annunciation. I thought it was kinda cute that their churches were next to each other... tender. St. Joseph’s Church was mush smaller and was more traditional in its architecture; it was pretty. There was this beautiful sculpture outside of it though that I loved. It was made of all white stone and was just a depiction of the Holy Family when Christ was an infant. It’s not a big statue or anything, but I just thought it was a really tender depiction of the family and made them look almost... normal. I think it’s important to remember that they really were a family unit and loved each other. Often times I will maybe overlook Joseph, or forget that Jesus was a child learning line upon line, or that maybe Mary would get frustrated with something. This sculpture though helped me remember that they were a real family, even if Jesus was more than just a child. The last stop in Nazareth was a church synagogue. Contradiction? Maybe a little; it’s an old synagogue that was made into a Christian church. The reason it is significant to Christianity is that it could very well have been (or been near to) the synagogue in which Christ would have taught the Jewish elders. We had a little devotional there and sang two hymns: “Come Unto Jesus” and “Our Savior’s Love.” I just continue to be amazed by where I am. Everyday I have to pinch myself and realize that this is my life! I am in the Holy Land, living the Bible and seeing where my Savior lived and taught. Nazareth was Jesus’s hometown, where he grew up, and now I’m off to the Galilee where he spent most of his mortal ministry, teaching us all how to be more like God. I feel like every scripture and hymn has more personal significance to me now, not necessarily because being in a place makes it more special; but for me, being in the places has made me ponder more about my Lord Jesus Christ, and I have developed a stronger testimony of his life, mission, atonement, and resurrection.
Our first introduction to the Galilee was on Mount Arbel, a beautiful mountaintop overlooking the entire Sea. This hillside is pretty much exactly what I picture when I think about Christ teaching in the New Testament: a green hillside, little outcroppings of greyish-white rocks where people would sit, and overlooking the water. It was so beautiful! Not to mention all of us were super excited to just see grass again- Jerusalem is so dry during the summer- early autumn that it is all dust and no grass. We had some time here to contemplate the teachings of Christ and the time he spent here. It was an awesome introduction to the Galilee, and I felt like it really helped me set the tone for the rest of the week and the things I will learn about the early apostles and Jesus.
After this we headed to our home for the next 11 days: the Ein Gev holiday resort. Yay for Galilee! We’ve arrived!