Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holy Land Tour: Nazareth

Nazareth is another one of those places where contemporary political and religious strife is evident. More on that in a minute.

I was surprised to see how mountainous Nazareth is. The hills are very steep and their vegetation and shapes remind me of parts of the Texas Hill Country.

Before going to the site of the old city of Nazareth, we stopped on the top of a mountain nearby.  This is the Mount of the Precipice, where Jesus escaped from those angered at his teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. (Luke 4:16)
We stopped for a moment of worship and some thoughts from our intrepid and inspiring leader, Dave Peterson. We did this often on the trip and I always found it very helpful to take the time to slow down, think and pray about the meaning of what we were seeing.

Afterwards our driver drove the bus down the very steep road and into the town of Nazareth. Our purpose was to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is built on the area where the Nazareth of Jesus' day once stood. Nazareth has a large Arab Muslim population. As we began climbing up from the street to the church, we saw this sign which hid the church from view:

In context, we found this sign to be somewhat intimidating--as it was surely meant to be. Our guide told us that the Christians in Nazareth were feeling a lot of pressure from the Muslims and many were choosing to leave the area.

I was disappointed that the Church of the Annunciation, although quite lovely, is a modern building which was completed in 1966. It is built over the remains of an earlier Byzantine chapel built by the Emperor Constantine for his mother, Helena. 

This is a view of the dome of the basilica:

There are a few remains of Constantine's church inside, but I didn't get a good photo of them. Around the building there is a broad and wide stone plaza that overlooks the city.

The Mount of the Beatitudes, the Jesus Boat, the Sea of Galilee, St. Peter's Fish, Meggido and Nazareth all in one day! That was a lot to absorb as we drove back to the hotel for the evening.

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