Posted by: Chris Hoskins | December 22, 2008

Trip to the Holy land…..Nazareth….

Most days in Israel I woke up early to watch the sunrise – for the first half of the week I saw this over Lake Galilee, for the second half of the week I saw it over part of Jerusalem with Bethlehem and Jordan in the distance. I woke up so early (6am) mostly because I love watching sunrises, but partly because I wanted to soak in as much as I could in the limited time we had in Israel. Anyway, the first day I took this photo of sunrise:
Sunrise over Lake Galilee and the Golan Heights
On the Friday, our first full day in Israel, we got our first glimpse of Israel in the daylight. It was awesome. Such a beautiful landscape. I hadn’t realised that Lake Galilee and the Dead sea were part of the great rift valley running from Syria through to Mozambique. Where we were staying, Tiberias, is 209 metres below sea level, which we didn’t realise for the first day or so until Jen Zeilinski, who used to stay in Israel, informed of this. The Friday involved lots of sight seeing and visits to Churches and other important sites. We travelled by coach to Nazareth, the most interesting part of the coach trip was when we realised we were driving through Cana……
…On arriving in Nazareth we were taking to the Mount of the Precipice, on the hillside there is a Church were the people of Nazareth are thought to have attempted to throw Jesus to his death following his claims that Isaiahs messianic prophesies were fulfilled through him. We never visited that Church, we went up to the viewpoint at the top of the hill. From this viewpoint we got an incredible panoramic view of Nazareth and the surrounding landscape. Sites of interest from this viewpoint were: the Jezreel Valley; where Gideons hometown of Ophrah is thought to have been as well as being the valley in which many battles were fought. We also saw Mount Gilboa; where King Saul met his death, Mount Tabor; more easily identifiable as the Mount of the Transfiguration, at the foot of Mount Tabor there is a town called Deborah, named for Deborah the judge. It is also possible to see Mount Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Ba-al to prove that יַהְוֶה (YaHWeH) was the one true God. Also visible is Megiddo, where the last battle (Armageddon/Har Megiddo) is prophesied to take place. To say that standing on top of the precipice was mind blowing doesn’t even begin to describe it. I knew when I went to Israel I was going to see some incredible places, but I didn’t expect to see so many hugely important places in the space of 15 minutes! Here are some pictures from the precipice:
Mount Tabor / mount of the Transfiguration
Mount Carmel
Jezreel Valley

After visiting the Mount of the Precipice, we visited a replica, working, first century farm in the middle of Nazareth. It was quite interesting, as we were being taken round by the guide he would explain how parts of the farm worked into the parables that Jesus taught. it really brought a whole new angle to the parables when we saw what the kind of farm Jesus referred to would have looked like. Below is a picture of the threshing floor at the farm, for some reason I’d always pictured it looking similar to the malting floor in a traditional Whisky Distillery.
Threshing Floor

After being served lunch at the farm, we visited some Churches in Nazareth: The Basilica of the Annunciation, St Josephs and the Greek Orthodox church of the Annunciation. all 3 Churches were awesome to visit. I have long come to the conclusion that i don’t really care how historically accurate the locations of all the Churches connected to Biblical characters/events are. To get anal about that would serve only to take away from the experience of God that so many people have in them. but lets not get into that quite yet….
Basilica of the Annunciation. This was visible quite clearly from the precipice. It’s a huge Church, quite impressive to look at. As its name suggests, It is named for the event of the Angels announcing to Mary that she was to give birth to Jesus. In the courtyard, there are many pictures of the Madonna and Child, each individualised to a different country, below is a picture of my favourite one, from Croatia. Inside the Church, there is another Church! This second Church, known as the grotto, is believed by many to be the original childhood home of Mary, mother of Jesus…..The Basilica is the site where Roman Catholics believe the annunciation took place, we also visited the Greek Orthdox Church where they claim the same event took place. Excavations on the grotto are still taking place, it was quite cool to watch archaeologists at work for a short period…
Basilica of the Annunciation from the Precipice
Croatian Madonna and Child
Archaeologists excavating the Grotto of Mary.
After the Basilica, it was on to St Josephs Church, which, as you may have guessed, was built for Joseph, “Father” of Jesus. Again, this was an incredible place to visit, complete with a green lit cavern that is reputed to be Joesphs workshop. What was interesting to find out was that, although we typically describe and think of Joseph as a carpenter, it is thought to be more likely that he was the 1st century equivalent of a construction worker/handyman. Able to turn his hand to most things involving stone or wood work. Which comes back to us in many of Jesus comments about wood/stone in his teachings.
After St Josephs, we went to to the other Church of the Annunciation, the Greek Orthodox site. This wasn’t as huge a Church, but still impressive nonetheless. As a Greek Orthodox Church, it had an impressive Iconostasis at the front (picture below) and also had a small chapel built over a spring that iscalled “Mary’s Well”. Guess why? Miss Whyte was given a row by one of the caretakers of the Church when she crossed her legs, we were then informed this is an insult in Arab cultures!
Iconostasis in the greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Once we returned to the hotel, we enjoyed an amzing dinner and then headed to the bar to chill and chat about the day. In the bar over the next few days, a small group of us, Jonnie, myself, Nicola, Rachel and Suzi became quite freindly with some of the bar staff. One in particular stands out: Lavi, a fantastic guy, always up for banter and introduced me to Arak, a fine liquer that is quite tasty!
Our wee group at the bar..
Lavi, our freindly barman
So thats a “brief” account of the first day in Israel. An easy day to write about, in that all we did was visit sights, it was a Biblical history day, whereas some other days had a much more humanitarian/political aspect to them…….
Hope you enjyed reading this and that you’re up for some more over the next few days, I’ve a lot to write about about the trip!!!

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