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Israel Trip Days 8-9

By: Scott Gilliland
Note: I've realized the last couple of posts have been very reflective and rather straight-forward, so I thought it might be fun to inject some humor into this one.  If you've missed the funnies, then you've come to the right post!

Goodbye Ezra, Hello Johnny!  We made the shift these past two days from the Jewish perspective of Israel (with the help of Shalom Hartman Institute, Dr. Marcie Lenk, and Ezra the Incredible Tour Guide) to Johnny the Tour Guide's perspective (he is an Arab Christian, who lives in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, just for reference).  He is very knowledgable, occasionally a (tad bit?) inappropriate, and overall about a 180 turn from the leaders of our last week.  Of course, we have Dr. Hunt with us as always, but it's hard to compete with "I don't mean to offend women, but..." (*actual Johnny quote).  Side note: When someone begins a sentence with "I don't want to offend you, but..." or "I'm not racist, but..." or "I'm not saying I'm in favor of killing kittens, but...," they are, in fact, about to say all those things.  To his credit, Johnny has not advocated killing of kittens... yet.

Johnny "I've Got Jokes" the Tour Guide.  
We left Jerusalem early in the morning and made our way out to the coast to the ancient city of Caesarea Maritime, a city built by King Herod during his reign over Judea to appease the Caesar at the time.  I must admit, I was a little disappointed because evidently things that are 2000 years old (and occasionally invaded) have the tendency to fall down.  The palace of Herod, the homes, the chariot arena... all required imagination to envision--though Phil Dieke and I managed to recreate a magnificent horse race for all the tourists present.

The theatre in Caesarea Maritime.  A large majority of the theatre is reconstructed, but it's one of the few things still standing, so deal with it.
Not from Caesarea Maritime.  "Hey Mickey Hey Pooh... uhh... who invited Creepy Clown?"
After Caesarea Maritime, we headed in the direction of Mt. Carmel, near the site of one of my personal favorite Old Testament passage.  Go look up 2 Kings 2:23-25 and then read it to your kids and then answer the door for the CPS agents.  Unfortunately, no pictures there, because the view was pretty hazy and there wasn't much else to look at.

From there we went to Haifa, en route to Nazareth, and stopped at the beautiful Bahá-í Gardens.  Bahá-í (pronounced bah-high) is a faith that grew out of utilizing elements and traditions from many major religions present in the world (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, to name a few).  They were gorgeous, and very picturesque, but we were all excited to get to Nazareth for the evening.

We then went to Nazareth, and immediately noticed the increase in Santa's present on billboards and storefronts.  I am increasingly aware of the "Jesus DisneyLand" effect (as my fellow student Thomas put it).  Cutting through the marketed nature of these places is not easy at times, and honestly there are places and moments when I think, "Eh... this isn't really getting me like I thought it would."  Maybe it's because I set the bar to high to have a "religious experience" at every site, or maybe it's because there are gift shops at every church that sits over every rock where someone says something happened.  I don't mean to sound cynical (because, as you've read before and will read again, I've had some very spiritual moments in these places), but I also want to remain transparent during this 17-day journey.

In Nazareth, we're staying in a hotel that was converted from a convent because so many pilgrims wanted to stay close to the Basilica of the Annunciation (containing the site of Christ's childhood home).  It might be prudent to say here that many of the sites on this pilgrimage cannot be verified as historically factual sites for a number of reasons, which raises the question of what makes sites holy or sacred?  For some, it is critical to believe the sites are the actual precise locations where biblical events took place, but I would argue something else.  Take for instance the Basilica of the Annunciation.  Is the small stone room within the historical location of Mary and Joseph's starter home?  I honestly don't know, and neither does anyone else in terms of the anthropological measures.  But it was someone's home during the time that Jesus lived, that we do know, and seeing the space and breathing the air and walking up to the point of almost touching the place where 2000 years ago a mother and father and children lived, ate, prayed, and grew... that is a sacred place.  And it could easily have been Jesus' home, it's as likely as any other ancient home in Nazareth, so why not imagine him there?  For me, the sacredness comes in seeing the home, seeing Jesus as a boy with a mom and a dad trying their best to make life work in Nazareth.  It's a beautiful picture (unfortunately for you, the dim light in there made for not-so-beautiful actual pictures, so here's the exterior of the church instead).

We also went to a church where Joseph supposedly had his workshop, but it didn't really affect me, and so I'm not going to say much here.

Basilica of the Annunciation.

In the Church of Joseph.  I kept waiting
for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to
show up.

Today, we woke up early and I can finally say I'm on the right sleep schedule finally!  Yay!  It only took a week.  Today was probably my favorite day in terms of sites visited, next to our first day in Jerusalem.  Enjoy the following pictures/comments so that I can spare you too much more writing.

Mount of the Beatitudes.  Beautiful mosaic work inside the church, mosaic is
kinda a big deal around here.  Phil Dieke (fellow student, friend, and expert on Rome)
had a great devotional asking us to consider the teaching "blessed are the
peacemakers"in light of the conflict surrounding the Holy Land.

Synagogue at Capernaum, dated around 400-500 CE (AD).  Capernaum is the most impressive historical site I've seen so far, for the simple reason of how many original stones and buildings are still intact.  The two outer columns are original.  No, my hair isn't thinning, dad.  Okay, maybe a little.  Thanks for pointing it out.

Statue of St. Peter at Capernaum (Peter's hometown).  Also featured in the statue, Peter's trusty sidekick, Señor Fish (at his feet).  Together, they fight crime throughout Judea.  That's in the Bible, right? 
American Flag being raised on our boat tour on Sea of Galilee.
The anthem was played.  It got weird.  (Some of the group
was from Brazil and didn't know the words.  They just
stood there.)

The stone (above) where Jesus' is said to have laid the loaves and fish and blessed them before feeding the 5000.  You might recognize the mosaic in front of the stone from communion plates and cups in your local church.  This site had the greatest spiritual effect on me of any of the holy sites so far.  I love the juxtaposition of a simple, unassuming rock (it couldn't have stood higher than a foot tall at the tallest point) as the place where Jesus performed the largest miracle in his ministry before the cross.  We should never take for granted the places we've come to as potentially places of incredible impact.

Mosaic of Pope John Paul II at Church of the Primacy of St. Peter.  What you cannot see in this picture is the fact that each mosaic in his face cannot be more than 1/8" across.  We're talking tiny and incredibly detailed.

The rock within Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, said to be where Jesus cooked the fish and shared the meal with the disciples after his resurrection.  Luckily that fishy smell has since worn off.  Evidently Pope Francis will be coming here in March.

Sunset over the hills approaching Nazareth.  Tomorrow we go to the Dead Sea, Jericho, River Jordan, Church of the Sepulcher, and Qumran, arriving in Bethlehem for the night.  It might require a post all it's own, we shall see.  For now, I will get to sleep and prepare for another day of Johnny, his jokes, and maybe some Senior Photos with Raegan.


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