Friday, November 3, 2017

Touring Middle East 6: Following the Footsteps

For any "Christian pilgrim" itinerary, Galilee in the northern part of Israel is just as important a stop as Jerusalem. This is the place where Jesus grew up (in His hometown of Nazareth), where most His apostles were from, and many of His ministry works and miracles took place.

Over the next 3 days from our base in Tiberias, we spent time around the shore of Sea of Galilee, down to the river and up to the mountain to numerous sites that played a significant part in Jesus' earthly life, essentially following His footsteps. I am not going to repeat word by word what the guide has told us about the history of every site, so this is more a photo journal (for my own benefits so I can remember what's what).

The Franciscan Wedding Church at Cana

Church of Annunciation, Nazareth
Some of those "holy sites" were more well-known, even to non-Christians - in Cana, a town where Jesus performed the first miracle recorded in The Bible by turning water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11), a church was built to commemorate the event with non-stop streams of couples coming here to tie the knot or renew their vows; in Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, a magnificent church was built (Church of Annunciation) at where Mary was thought to have lived and received the news from the angel that she's bearing baby Jesus (an event known as Annunciation)

To me, one of the most touching moments was the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee when we traveled from our hotel near Tiberias to Capernaum, a historical fishing village on the shore where a few of his disciples live and where he spent most of the time. After a few days of hectic travel, it's good for a change of pace with some quiet time sailing on a small boat in the calm waters, when I could reflect on the Bible passages about Jesus spending time on the very lake doing all the amazing things - calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41), catching the fish and calling His first disciples (Luke 5:1-11 and then again after resurrection in John 21:1-14) and walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33) Unlike the towns in Jesus' time which are now down to rubble and ruins (those churches were built centuries after), Sea of Galilee is the one that changed the least probably - we were sailing on the same waters as Jesus did 2000 years ago, following the footsteps of his.

Capenaum - with the ruins of a first-century Synagogue and St. Peter's Church

Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes

Church of the Beatitudes
Capernaum has now turned into a National Park, with the ruins of a first-century synagogue, and a hexagonal church on top of what was thought to be St. Peter's house. We also made brief stops at the Church of Multiplication in Taghba, where Jesus performed the miracles of feeding 5000 (Luke 9:10-17), and the chapel on a beautiful ground on top of Mount of Beatitudes, where "Sermon of the Mount" took place. (Mathew 5-7)

Tel Dan Nature Reserve

Caesarea Maritima 
On the last full day of itinerary, we headed north to Golan Heights looking over the Syrian border from afar. And as we traveled south into Jerusalem, we stopped by Meggido, Mount Carmel (where we shared communion in a simple Sunday service) and Caesarea Maritima where St. Paul was taken to Rome. All those places were mentioned at some point in The Bible too.

If I have to name one thing that I learned most from our stay at Galilee, it's definitely the better understanding of the geography of the region, which also gave me better visualization of the Bible passages where those places were mentioned and piecing all those stories together.

And oh, did I also mention the sandwich stand at Nazareth just a block away from the Church of Annunciation at Nazareth serves the best falafal and shawarma that we had for the entire trip? That's memorable too.

(Touring Middle East - Part 6)

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