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Friday, October 24, 2014

10/21: Nazareth & The Sea of Galilee

Several weeks ago in Plovdia, Bulgaria, we’d been so lucky meeting and having a wonderful time spending much of the day with 2 Israelis, Noam and Dalia, who said they’d be thrilled showing us some of their favorite sights north of Haifa when we were in town. After a flurry of emails and then phone calls back and forth, Dalia volunteered Noam to pick us up at the haifa Guesthouse which was a considerable hike from his home in Afula. After stopping to get Dalia from her home in Kiriat Tivon, they drove us to Nazareth where we visited some amazing Christian sites. 

Our first stop was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation located in a lovely square that's all lit up during the Christmas season, Noam said.

Entering the courtyard we were struck by the spectacular gifts from so many countries all over the world to the church.
Gloria: this one's for you!

Our next was the Basilica of the Annunciation that was packed with tourists and pilgrims; many of the latter were either priests walking alone but often priests accompanied by who appeared to be their parishioners. It was awe inspiring as a cradle Catholic being able to see first hand the church and visualize what happened so long ago right where we walked.
The air was thickened by the amount and scent of the incense how very intoxicating in that environment.

The exquisite mosaic on the floor of the upper level of the church.

Canada's gift to the church was in wood - the only non mosaic that I saw.
Japan's gift was also inside the church.

Immediately upon leaving the gorgeous church, we heard the Muslim ‘Call to Prayer’ from the adjacent White Mosque below. There was only a sense of harmony in that, not one of discord for me. 

Just steps away was this very lovely and simple church.

Dalia and I had a blast shopping in the Arab souk in Nazareth while Steven and Noam went back to get the car and pick us at the bottom of the market. As you may already know, Nazareth is an almost exclusively Arab town.  As you might well imagine, there was every variety and pricepoint of religious object to be found in the stores. 

We've been seeing lots of stores selling 'Jesus' sandals' lately!
Noam pointed out to us the Golan Heights (in the foreground behind the Sea of Galilee) which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. Behind the Golan Heights is Syria, Noam explained. Jordan, which we’ll be visiting in a week, is on othe right hand side in the photo.

Later, he next kindly stopped again on the outskirts of the town of Kinneret so we could see and could have touched the River Jordan where so many people come to be baptized. It was amazing watching canoeists pass us from its muddy banks after hearing from my earliest Catholic religious education classes of all these sights we were truly blessed to have seen with Noam and Dalia.

Another view of the Sea. Below Steven dipped his feet in!

Noam and Dalia drove for more than a hour trying to take us to some of their favorite beaches on the Sea of Galilee so we could all go swimming. We stopped at several places but they all looked very rocky and had signs up saying NO Swimming so finally gave up on that idea and instead headed to a kibbutz resort where we walked around and enjoyed ourselves in the waning afternoon sun. 
The kibbutz's Yigal Alon Museum

Photo of where 5 Israeli girls were murdered by Arabs.
Noam explained how riverboats take tourists on the 45 minute jaunt across the Sea from here at the kibbutz to the resort on the other side at the Golan Heights.

Finally a beach with shells again although these were the tiniest ones I've seen.

One of the museum's exhibits.

Noam drove us back to his lovely home on a large farm where he grew olive trees as well as my all time favorites, dates. I felt so utterly clueless when he showed me the dates growing on one of his date palm trees. He said one of his trees bears about 100 kilos of dates a year – what heaven. I had never thought of how they grew before very dried ones magically appeared on the shelves in my local grocery stores to be brought home and baked into Date Squares or Date Bread. Noam’s dates were so soft they almost melted in my mouth. I could have eaten them until the cows came home but I tried to exercise some restraint!

Another variety of dates.
Dalia modeling the scarf she chose that I bought for her in the souk. Steven and I both thought it looked fantastic on her.

After some tea and a light dinner, they drove us to the bus station where we said our sad goodbyes hoping to meet again another day. What an incredible introduction Noam and Dalia gave us to their lovely homeland. I can't begin to say what another lovely day we had with them. We got the 7:10 bus for the 90 minute ride south to Jerusalem where we’re spending a week in a 4 bed mixed dorm at the Abraham Hostel!