Holy Land 2015 | Day 03 – Nazareth, Mary’s House, Cana, and an Archbishop

Greetings, Dear Reader! Today was our first full-fledged day of touring in the Holy Land and there’s plenty to report. I switched to our Canon PowerShot for quick pics and its SD card played much more nicely with the MacBook Air than my Samsung Galaxy S5 did. Remember: you can click the pic to see a larger version in your browser.

The Sun Also Rises Over Galilee

While most of you settling in for the evening at home, we were roused with a 4:30am wake-up call (or 8:30pm CST, as we’re 8 hours ahead) so we could make it to breakfast and on the bus before 6:00am. You’ll recall the roads out of town were closing then to accommodate a few thousand people descending upon Tiberias for an annual marathon run around the Sea of Galilee. We all made it to the bus (no runs for us today) and ended up leaving on time and headed to the Sea of Galilee just in time for (a cloud-covered) sunrise over the water.

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Now that’s a view one could get used to waking up to every morning.

The city of Tiberias is on the central west coast of the Sea of Galilee.

Tiberias is on the central west coast of the Sea of Galilee.

Our buses: Light Blue and Tan. Our touring agency, Educational Opportunities, runs several buses at once and sometimes in the same location so each is named a color and we have coordinating color nametags. I'm on the Tan bus, by the way, or as we call ourselves, the Tannenites.

Our buses: Light Blue and Tan. Our touring agency, Educational Opportunities, runs several buses at once and sometimes in the same location so each is named a color and we have coordinating color nametags. I’m on the Tan bus, by the way, or as we call ourselves, the Tannenites.

Rev. Chris walks along a retaining wall for a better view as I snapped this pick from inside a giant concrete construction piece waiting to become building foundation.

Rev. Chris walks along a retaining wall for a better view as I snapped this pick from inside a giant concrete construction piece waiting to become building foundation.

It was a beautiful site and I appreciated the varied landscape of the city so we could get a bird’s eye view of the land, the city, and the sea.

A City with a History of Sketpical Nathans…

Next, we traveled to Nazareth, Jesus’s hometown. You may recall the first chapter of John when Philip runs up to Nathanael and says we’ve found him, the Messiah, and he’s from Nazareth. To which, Nathanael replies, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” See, we Nathans are a skeptical crew. Anyway, Philip told him, “Come and see,” and it paid off big. But Nathanael didn’t say that because he’s a jerk looking to put down Nazareth like some sort of arbitrary high school rivalry (ya hear that, Luverne?!). Instead, he knows the truth: when you start a city in this region, you do it based on three important geographical pieces: 1. Build it on the high ground (defense), 2. Build it on a trade route (commerce), 3. Build it near an ample water spring (life). Nazareth has none of those things. It stayed small and poor in Jesus’s day because 1. it’s built in a valley, 2. it wasn’t near any major trade routes, and 3. the water spring was very, very small.

What it did have, though, is a cliff. It was this cliff the people tried to throw Jesus off after he read the Isaiah scroll and asserted himself as the one through whom the scriptures have been fulfilled. I know it’s tough to be an adult and have an adult-age child come back to your home and to see them as a fellow adult, but the people of Nazareth weren’t having this and they took him to the cliff. Yeah, sometimes a young adult just can’t go back to his or her hometown and expect a great welcome. It’s like something out of a song by The Head and the Heart.

Another tour group stands at the cliff.

Another tour group stands at the cliff.

Near the cliff are three plaques describing the location's significance, from English...

Near the cliff are three plaques describing the location’s significance, from English…

to Hebrew...

to Hebrew…

and in Arabic.

and in Arabic.

It's also a Bjork song, as one can't help but imagine the long way down a fall would be over this rocky cliff side.

It’s also a Bjork song, as one can’t help but imagine the long way down a fall would be over this rocky cliff side.

Rev. Henry, whom I was commissioned with at Annual Conference last spring, snaps a selfie.

Rev. Henry, whom I was commissioned with at Annual Conference last spring, snaps a selfie.

Both Henry and I have wonderful wives watching over our wonderful children this week. Thanks, you two!

Both Henry and I have wonderful wives watching over our wonderful children this week. Thanks, you two!

Any young people out there, given what I just wrote, what do you think about this: “You can’t go back to Nazareth.”? Is it true for you?

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this site (more on that in another post) and I found it to be incredible. Was it the cliff? Hard to say but it’s a good guess. I’ve certainly felt like I can’t go back to my own personal Nazareths from throughout my life several times and that cliff definitely would have been a death sentence for Jesus. It makes me ponder if I will be able to rise to the occasion of treating the young generation with grace when I become the old generation. If I can’t offer to others what I yearn for from others myself, I’ll end up nothing but a stubbon old hypocrite. Or worse, perpetually skeptical, and even the Biblical Nathan got over his skepticism!

Mary’s House in the Middle of the Church

(Bonus points to anyone who comments with the 1980s song that section header is a play off…)

Next, our buses took a trip from Nazareth to the Basilica of the Annunciation. “Basilica” comes from the Greek “basilia” or “kingdom,” and is often used to name large churches. So here we were atΒ the Basilica of the Annunciation. Well, the big one of two. While the Bible describes Mary having one interaction with an angel and her singing her passionate song of joy and overcoming the bonds of poverty and the downtrodden, our guide, Sam, explained that the oral tradition in the region is Mary was approached twice. Similar to how Jesus interacted with a Samaritan woman at the well, so too was Mary approached by an angel at the well. Terrified, she fled to her home where the angel was already waiting for her. Hence, two locations.

This is a nice big church!

This is a nice big church!

Our group listens to Sam explain what we'll see inside the church.

Our group listens to Sam explain what we’ll see inside the church building.

Sam, pointing, has to explain the interior while we're outside because talking indoors is frowned upon and guides giving tours inside is not allowed.

Sam, pointing, has to explain the interior while we’re outside because talking indoors is frowned upon and guides giving tours inside is not allowed.

In the courtyard, I saw this Mary statue. Look at how worn down her hands are from years of presumably thousands of people touching her cast fingers.

In the courtyard, I saw this Mary statue. Look at how worn down her hands are from years of presumably thousands of people touching her cast fingers.

A close-up of Mary's hands.

A close-up of Mary’s hands.

The one we went to has the remnants of an excavated ancient home that, by tradition, is the home of the young Mary. A small chapel was erected with it and there it stayed until Pope John Paul VI visited the site i 1964 and commissioned a giant church be built in 1965 – what at the time was to be the largest Christian church building in the middle east. The outdoor courtyard is adorned with sculptures, paintings, and mosaics of Mary from a wide variety of countries each depicting Mary through their own indigenous lens. I took a few photos of beautiful ones (a good photographer could probably make a few bucks off of capturing them all for a book) and which I thought would interest a few people I know whom have connections to these countries. I’ll post those later. For now, here’s one I connected with:

One for me is El Salvador, which I visited in 2010. Sadly, I didn't think to get in my own photo!

One for me is El Salvador, which I visited in 2010. Sadly, I didn’t think to get in my own photo!

The inside is ornate, too, and would’ve been even more ornate had the workers not told the Vatican they were overworked and underpaid, and so the powers that be decided it was done enough and ceased work. Thus, the inside walls aren’t painted or tiled but merely cement. Mary’s partially excavated home is set apart like a dig and guests may walk near it in the basement of the church.

If you're going to make a fence, you might as well make it beautiful.

If you’re going to make a fence, you might as well make it beautiful.

This site is traditionally celebrated s Mary's home. An altar has been added and the door in the back leads to an outdoors courtyard of the excavation.

This site is traditionally celebrated s Mary’s home. An altar has been added and the door in the back leads to an outdoors courtyard of the excavation.

Here's the outdoor portion of the house dig.

Here’s the outdoor portion of the house dig.

Any pastors out there see a book or two you keep near you in your sanctuary's chancel?

Any pastors out there see a book or two you keep near you in your sanctuary’s chancel?

Despite (or because of?) being a “holy site,” I was fascinated by two things: the amalgamation of the ancient and the modern, as well as the graffiti. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people visit each of these places every day and there’s a big demand to keep them nice. Still, there’s writing on the walls, change thrown into areas like it’s a wishing well, and constant reminders of what is expected, acceptable behavior:

Do NOT defy that ghost in the middle.

Do NOT defy that ghost in the middle.

This was the most helpful graffiti I've ever seen: someone drew the extra candelabra staff for the menorah with a pencil!

This was the most helpful graffiti I’ve ever seen: someone drew the extra candelabra staff for the menorah with a pencil!

Likewise, while it’s a 50-year old building housing a 2000-year-old house dig, and no matter how holy the site, there still needs to be practical measures of technology:

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This painting is of Jesus but not one that many modern US citizens recognize: beardless with sheep. Really, this is similar to the very oldest recorded images we have of Jesus: artwork depicting him as slight, clean-shaven, and shepherding a flock - all inducing the image of David the Shepherd, an important part of Jesus's lineage.

This painting is of Jesus but not one that many modern US citizens recognize: beardless with sheep. Really, this is similar to the very oldest recorded images we have of Jesus: artwork depicting him as slight, clean-shaven, and shepherding a flock – all inducing the image of David the Shepherd, an important part of Jesus’s lineage.

Bishop Bruce Ough poses in front of the Mary artwork from Vietnam. Until a few months ago, he was also the bishop of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.

Bishop Bruce Ough poses in front of the Mary artwork from Vietnam. Until a few months ago, he was also the bishop of Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.

Bishop told me if I can find the artwork for those countries, I could snap his pic. Congrats, Bishop, you made the blog!

Bishop told me if I can find the artwork for those countries, I could snap his pic. Congrats, Bishop, you made the blog!

Are you ever afraid your church collects clutter? Fear not, my friend, for the Church of the Annunciation also had these large outdoor lanterns just hanging out in the courtyard. Even in the Holy Land, churches seek space to place its objects.

Are you ever afraid your church collects clutter? Fear not, my friend, for the Church of the Annunciation also had these large outdoor lanterns just hanging out in the courtyard. Even in the Holy Land, churches seek space to place its objects.

I think my favorite part of this place was all the artwork. It was all beautiful and I loved the expansive, many visions of Mary. While the Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches hold Mary in high regard, that hasn’t been part of my personal faith journey nearly to the same extent. I found the icons and architecture quite beautiful. How about you? How has Mary figured into your faith journey?

Visiting with a Palestinian Arab Christian Archbishop Who Was Born One Thing: a Baby.

Elias Chacour was the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 2006 to 2014. He retired to keep working at the school he helped to start decades ago.

Elias Chacour was the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 2006 to 2014. He retired to keep working at the school he helped to start decades ago.

In a school he helped build, Archbishop Elias Chacour spoke to us about what it is to be many things in Israel. He is an Arab, a Palestinian, a Christian, and he emphasizes he was born only one thing: a baby. That we were all born babies, made in the image of one great God, and perhaps if we were to remember our most common of roots, this may be just the sort of thing that could help create unity. He helped us understand the Palestinian community is quite varied, too, including various religions and ethnic heritages, and yet their identity as Palestinians is what unites them together. Another highlight that I thought was powerful: he said go ahead and completely believe in only the Palestinian cause, the Arab cause, the Christian cause, to go ahead and do this… but then, do not call him friend. He is not interested in people who will only see things from one side because that is what will continue to create wide divides. He is a hopeful man, to be sure.

I really appreciated hearing Chacour’s perspective. I’m only just beginning to dip my toes into comprehending the complexities of the history and present of how all these people live together (or don’t live together) and his will be one of many perspectives we’ll hear on this journey. My notes are upstairs and I don’t want to wake my roommate so I’ll come back to update this portion of the post later.

The school had a beautiful retaining wall mosaic and reflects the three languages I see on most street signs and businesses: English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

The school had a beautiful retaining wall mosaic and reflects the three languages I see on most street signs and businesses: English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Lunch break was at a cafeteria and the food was okay this time around. My "schnitzel" chicken patty was on this side of warm instead of hot, but the company was good, as was the orange drink and hummus.

Lunch break was at a cafeteria and the food was okay this time around. My “schnitzel” chicken patty was on this side of warm instead of hot, but the company was good, as was the orange drink and hummus.

Who Needs More Wine?

We journeyed to a small town called Cana (there are or were a few Canas but it’s believed this is the one mentioned in the Bible because of some of the geography in the story) to see the place where the first miracle of Jesus is celebrated. Many know this miracle; it may even be your favorite. It’s the miracle at the wedding at Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. Here, ancient ruins of a home were found and declared the site where this could have happened. The church that houses this site also has a giant stone jar, the big ones from the story. So it goes, Jesus and his mother are at a wedding and learn there’s no more wine and he says fetch six jars of water and behold, they’re now wine. That’s a win-win for everyone.

Our guide, Sam, said culturally weddings are celebrated for several days and most people like friends, family, and neighbors aren’t invites; they’re just expected to show up. So, it’s not uncommon for several hundred people to show up for a wedding today, which makes it challenging to figure out how much of any dish – or delicious grape-inspired alcoholic beverages – to keep ready and waiting. The only difference from Jesus’s day? No grocery stores or liquor stores or even a drug store for near beer. Instead, a miracle.

Yeah, I guess it holds SOME water.

Yeah, I guess it holds SOME water.

I was fascinated by this kingly image of Jesus. We must remember what metaphor was most meaningful to their then as we figure out what metaphors work best for our now.

I was fascinated by this kingly image of Jesus. We must remember what metaphor was most meaningful to their then as we figure out what metaphors work best for our now.

Dinner and Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

I ended up with some motion sickness throughout the day on the bus and took to closing my eyes and using Kelly’s neck pillow to try to catch some Zs, or at least feel better. It’s this odd feeling of nausea, exhaustion, and hunger. I’m going to call it “Tim.” Tim came with me today. Tim just had to tag along today. What is up with Tim? Can Tim wait at the hotel while I go on the bus?

Dinner was delicious and the dining room was filled with families on holiday for Shabbat. After nearly three days of contact nearly exclusively with adults (and older adults at that, as I’m one of the youngest on the tour and definitely of the Tannanites), it was refreshing to see the joy of children. They ran, laughed, chattered, and got underfoot in the most delightful ways. I was met with many smiles of little ones and caught the eyes of approving parents. My hunch is I’m a unique-looking person in this neck of the woods.

And that’s all she wrote. A nice, full day! Tomorrow, we’re leaving this hotel in Tiberias for our next hotel in Bethlehem (south of where we are now, and south of Jerusalem). But first, we’ll take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. I asked if I should bring my swimsuit and I was told I can but I won’t use it. Fine by me. It’s cold! I did see a man in a Speedo who’d clearly taken a dip. Good for him. As for me, I’d like to spend tomorrow as dry as possible.

Thank you for your comments and prayers!

Regards,
Nate

P.S. As I was posting, I had a nice conversation with three young Israeli boys chasing a balloon through the lobby. We exchanged names and I showed them photos on the laptop of Minnesota snow which made them laugh. Again, fun to be near children after a few days away, and I miss my girls. πŸ™‚

P.S.S. Did you learn something? Take the poll and add a comment to let me know!

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16 thoughts on “Holy Land 2015 | Day 03 – Nazareth, Mary’s House, Cana, and an Archbishop

  1. Yes, I find this very informative and also very entertaining to read! I often chuckle to myself. It makes the trip and learning very joyful!

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  2. Dear Pastor Nate the Tannenite,
    In answer to your trivia question, I wanna say it’s “Our house, in the middle of the street…..” At first I had “Proud Mary” stuck in my head but knew that couldn’t be it.

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    • It was really steep, couldn’t see the bottom. Geographically, it makes sense for the story, though we’ll never know for sure, historically.

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  3. So I’m just catching up on the trip now, better late than never right?

    I didn’t know that the earliest images/depictions of Jesus have him beardless. Are you going to next tell me he wasn’t white or have brown hair??

    Also, “We must remember what metaphor was most meaningful to their then as we figure out what metaphors work best for our now.” might just become my favorite bible-interpretative quote yet.

    Nice work sir!

    Like

  4. Loved the photo of the jars where Jesus turned water into wine. I’m a big fan of wine, but holy cow, that’s a lot of vino! Also love my family, but the idea of celebrating a wedding with them for days and not hours seems like a little too much together time for me!!

    Like

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