There is surprisingly little to do in Nazareth, at least from what we could see. It seems to be a rather modern, industrialized city, which is fine. The place we stayed was lovely and there is plenty to do around Nazareth, just not in Nazareth.
We did visit the Church of the Annunciation, which was built in the late 1960s over the older Byzantine and Crusader-era churches. According to Roman Catholic tradition, the grotto in the bottom of the church is Mary’s childhood home, where the angel came to her with the news that she was bearing the Christ child. Greek Orthodox tradition contradicts this.
Again, I think it’s interesting, but I don’t really think it matters if we know the exact location all of these events took place. I guess I’m not a very good pilgrim, which is too bad since that is basically what we did today.
The church is decorated with depictions of the Madonna and Child, donated by different nations. It was interesting to see how different interpretations there were, ranging from the very traditional to the most abstract.
We were kind of shocked to see the pieces donated by the United States and Canada. They were among the most interpretive. At least in the American one there is an easily visible person, although Mary looks a bit like the Tin Man to me. I’m still not sure I’ve quite figured out the Canadian one. I think that big circle is a halo…
We also visited the Church of St. Joseph, which is basically next door to the Church of the Annunciation, and marks the spot of Joseph’s carpentry shop.
From Nazareth we drove to Tiberias for a quick stop at the Sea of Galilee. The beach was covered with razor wire, like most things in Israel. I don’t know how covering a beach with sharp stuff is going to protect anybody from anything, but it did dissuade us from swimming…
Rachel was still a bit feverish but was well enough to run around and splash in the puddles created by a statue/fountain thing that we found. She didn’t run around for long before she was completely tired out, though, and wanted nothing but to be held for the rest of the day.
Patrick tried to slowly walk into the sea but he slipped and landed with a plop in knee-deep water. At least he landed on his feet. A little school of fish surrounded him and started pulling on his leg hairs.
Tiberias was a difficult city to navigate. It wasn’t very well marked and once you were off the freeway it was kind of like “Welcome to Tiberias! Good luck!” We followed a UPS guy around for a while and he ended up making a stop right by the visitor/information center, which was helpful because it meant we could grab a map. Even then we were kind of hopeless; we got lost getting out of Tiberias, too.
Navigating the main roads in Israel is much easier, though, and we find out about things we wouldn’t have known about if we hadn’t been driving. On our way to Tabgha we saw a tourist sign announcing that the “Jesus Boat” would be on our next right. So we pulled of in Ginosar to investigate and ended up being glad that we did. It was a really neat thing to see.
It dates back to the time of Christ and is the oldest boat ever found in freshwater. We went on a guided tour, since there isn’t any other kind, and had a sweet old man as our guide. He was pretty hilarious; he kept asking questions and then answering them without waiting for us to respond. It sounded more like he was muttering to himself than like he was giving a tour. Still, we learned a lot.
The first thing I noticed when we walked in the room was the stench.
“Boy, it smells in here!” I whispered to Andrew.
I was almost ready to pass out it was so overwhelming. He agreed that it smelled a bit funny but mostly blamed my pregnancy nose.
Come to find out, it had to sit in a boiling pool of wax and chemicals for a decade before it was ready to see dry land. That explained the smell much better than my pregnancy nose.
We visited the museum there as well, but it was pretty lame, so we quickly moved on to Tabgha.
Tabgha is where the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes—a church built over a stone where tradition holds the actual multiplication took place—is located.
It is also where Jesus appeared to his disciples again, his third appearance after his resurrection. The Church of the Primacy of Peter supposedly marks this exact location, though we didn’t visit that church.
We were getting pretty hungry by this time in the day and had plans to eat our lunch at the Church of Multiplication, but there didn’t seem to be any good spots for picnicking so we decided to press on until we got to the Mount of the Beatitudes.
We decided to stop at Capernaum on our way there so that we’d be sure to be very hungry when we actually got around to eating.
Capernaum is most famous for being the hometown of a few of the apostles (Andrew and Matthew), perhaps most notably Peter. It’s also where Jesus began his ministry. There is an excavation site that is believed to be Peter’s actual house. Rachel was very interested to know why Peter lived in a hole. We tried explaining to her that mostly all that is left of his house was the foundation and that once upon a time it wasn’t that deep underground. I’m not sure how much of that she understood; she was quite puzzled about it all afternoon.
The synagogue at Capernaum is one of the oldest in the world and is likely where Jesus delivered some of his sermons, like the one found in John 6.
From Capernaum we continued on to the Mount of the Beatitudes. The church was closed when we got there so we decided to just have lunch on some rocks on the hillside, under some trees. Rachel napped in the car while we ate and when she woke up I fed her and Andrew sneaked off to read the Sermon on the Mount while overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
While I was feeding Rachel I heard a chirping sound and looked over my shoulder only to find myself face to face not with a bird, as I was expecting, but with a cute, green chameleon. It was fun to watch him walk around for a bit; chameleons have really weird feet.
We took a few pictures but Rachel wasn’t feeling very well still and didn’t cooperate very well. When Andrew asked her to smile she could barely lift her head off my shoulder before collapsing again.
From there we headed to Mount Tabor, also know as the Mount of Transfiguration. It was quite the drive, up dozens of switchbacks on a road wide enough for only one lane of traffic, to the Church of Transfiguration, but it sure was beautiful.
Rachel was a little more alert because we gave her another dose of medicine at the Mount of Beatitudes, so her fever had gone back down and her headache had subsided. Poor thing kept telling us that everything was “too bright,” and that everything on her body hurt. Her head hurt, her arms hurt, her fingers hurt, her knees hurt, her back hurt, even her hair hurt (apparently). A simple fever and pain reducer took care of all of that.
We didn’t stay long because I wanted to get back to the apartment to let poor, little Rachel rest. No one really argued about leaving, either; we’d all seen our fill of churches and ruins.
When we pulled up at the apartment we noticed that Andrew had just missed squishing yet another chameleon. Joseph declared this day “The Day of Chameleons,” and with good reason—I don’t think I’ve ever come across a wild chameleon in my life and we’d just come across two in the same day.
When I tried to take a turn holding him, he wouldn’t walk onto my arm. Patrick’s backpack was much more interesting.
Andrew’s probably happy about that because he gets a little squeamish around animals like snakes and fish and lizards and bees and…I’ll stop before I embarrass him. He was just as happy to not have to touch as he was that he didn’t run it over.
A few weeks ago when we were walking to church we came across a squished lizard in the middle of the road. It was all bloated and oozing bodily fluids. Andrew just about lost his breakfast.
I had completely forgotten about this on Saturday when I walked into the women’s bathroom at the Jerusalem Center and found a squished, dried lizard, no bigger than my little finger. I picked it up in a tissue to show to Andrew, thinking (for some odd reason) that he would think it was neat or cute or I don’t know what. Instead of being interested in it, though, he kind of surprised me by saying,
“Oh, gross! Get rid of it! You know how I feel about squished lizards!”
“I do?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “Remember when…”
And then he reminded me about how poorly he reacted to seeing the dead lizard in the middle of the road. Oops. I forgot. Dead lizards are worse than live lizards, apparently because Andrew was very happy that he didn’t squish this one.
The line, “You know how I feel about squished lizards!” is almost as good as the time I cried to Andrew in a pregnancy-fit, “You don’t even have a cervix!” (Long story short, he was making fun of me for gasping and jumping after a very hard punch from Miriam, who seems to aim rather low, unlike Rachel who was more of a rib-baby).
When we were all rested from our whirlwind New Testament tour, we went out souvenir shopping for the last time. Things were a lot cheaper in Nazareth than in other places.
Andrew and I went in one shop and started bartering with the owner over a nativity piece. He kept going down in price, but not low enough for us. Then Patrick ran over and said that the guy next door said that he’d give us anything in the store for 50% off. The guy we had been haggling with quickly matched that deal, so we bought our things from him and headed over to Patrick’s store to wait.
While we were standing there, Andrew looked up to the very top of the shelf where he saw the bust of a man.
“Does that look like Joseph Smith to you?” he asked me, pointing to the bust.
“You know, it kind of does,” I told him.
“I don’t know,” he said, “It’s probably just Beethoven or something.”
It still looked like Joseph Smith to me, so I asked the owner, Kameel.
“Who is that a carving of?”
“That,” he said, reaching up and pulling it down for us to have a better look and then pronouncing every syllable very carefully, “Is Joseph Smith.”
“No way!” Andrew and I said at once, laughing.
“Did I say it wrong?” Kameel asked, worried.
“No, you said it right…it’s just…we’re Mormons.”
“You are?!” he asked, “I haven’t seen any Mormons in a while. Last year I had one come to my store…from Jordan, studying Arabic with BYU. They asked me to make this statue, so I did, and a few extras.”
It was too funny. Who’d have thought we’d find a Joseph Smith bust at a random shop in Israel. There were three left in his store, so we all bought one…kind of an impulse buy, but we’d have regretted it if we didn’t. Andrew’s really excited to put it in his office one day.
I’m excited for the day that Andrew has an office…one day…