We said goodbye to our cheerful rooms at the Azzahra Hotel in East Jerusalem this morning and began a day’s travel ending in Nazareth.
One last view of Jerusalem from the bus as we sailed past, with the Dome of the Rock taking centre stage in the landscape but not quite glistening in the sun like it did when we visited. Bedouin camps popped into view along the roadside as we drove through the desert, stopping at the sea level marker for a photo opportunity.
Jericho didn’t present itself very well looking quite untidy and run down, however we stopped beside a gorgeous little spot with a huge sycamore tree set in a well maintained garden with fruit sellers’ wagons parked nearby. This tree is reputed to be the tree, or another planted in its place, that Zaccheus climbed to see Jesus as he moved through the town.
There were a few workmen painting some of the trees with a white paint of some sort that prevented ants getting into the trees and killing them. This guy with the groovy haircut was scraping away the old layer ready to apply a new coat. Azmi told stories about Jesus as he traversed the countryside, at each of the spots we stopped at during the day. We continued on a short way to Hisham’s Palace where we were horrified not only to see that electrical equipment was getting set up for a concert but also to see a school group of teenage boys scrambling all over precious stone ruins and irreplaceable mosaic floors and running around it as if it was a fairground. Their teacher was in fact encouraging the boys to climb up onto a signature piece for photos. Azmi was horrified and so were we!!
Back into the bus to continue though the Jordan Valley to our next destination of Capernaum, we were on the lookout for a picture of a shepherd guarding his flock of sheep that I wanted for school. Often cries of “shepherd!” were heard as we drove along causing us to search the horizon and snap away. Can you see him?
The area we drove through appeared to be a food bowl with kilometres of date palms, grape vines, corn, mangoes, banana trees and poly tunnel after poly tunnel. We drove along the border fence between Israel and Jordan for a period of time and saw a couple of Israeli jets announce their presence. Driving past the Sea of Galilee with its blue water sparkling in the sunshine we stopped at Tabgha to see the church of the Primacy of St Peter, Mensa Christi. This is a beautiful and simple church right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with a couple of outdoor altars for small groups of people to celebrate Mass. There was a Mass being celebrated in French for only three people! This church is all about Jesus choosing Peter and ‘on this rock I shall build my church’. Luckily we got to see the church and the banks of the Sea of Galilee before a couple of bus loads of tourists arrived to destroy the serenity.
Capernaum was fascinating with a modern church said to have been built over the ruins of Peter’s house which can be seen through the glass floor in the centre of the church. Beside that is the site of two ancient synagogues, one built on top of a more ancient one. One could surmise that when Jesus stayed with Peter at his house then he would have visited the synagogue next door.
The town of Safed (Tsfat) is one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities and is also Israel’s highest city at over 900 metres above sea level. Here we spent some time having lunch and wandering along a street full of artists’ shops selling paintings and jewellery. A few purchases might have been made! Asmi told us that the traffic in Nazareth was horrendous and he was so right! It took us almost an hour to move four kilometres up the road into Nazareth.
It was past six o’clock by now and we parked our little bus and walked the short distance to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which provides accomodation. What a fabulous place this is. We unpacked our cases for the two night stay and walked to a restaurant that Azmi loves going to. Delicious food and good company was the end to a great day.
Oh, I guess you noticed that the convent has wonderful wifi and photos are being shared so easily. Hope you enjoyed them.