Friday, March 4, 2016

Jesus was here... and here..and here!

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Tour - Day 2

Apparently it is very hard to explore Judaism without having to go through Christianity. Not being a Christian - in fact, we are both pretty much atheists, a lot of these so-called Christian sites didn't mean anything to us -- at first. But because Christ was Jewish a lot of these holy sites were Jewish and what are now churches were synagogues.

Our first stop was the Nazareth Village - stopping into the Annunciation Church. On the church walls, as well as in its yard, there is an exhibition of mosaic paintings. Each painting was given by a different country and is reflecting the national motives of the country.
The church was established at the site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place. Greek Orthodox tradition holds that this event occurred while Mary was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth, and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was erected at that alternate site.
The current church is a two-story building constructed in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary
We pressed on to Cana, the site of  the church where Jesus performed his first miracle - turning water into wine.
The transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John. In the Gospel account, Jesushis mother and his disciples are invited to a wedding, and when the wine runs out, Jesus delivers a sign of his glory by turning water into wine. 
Went through the gift shop and tasted the holy wine. A lot like Manischewitz, if you ask me. One more stop before lunch, Bet Alfa and the ancient synagogue.
Beit Alfa is a kibbutz in the Northern District of Israel. The kibbutz as well as the archaeological site nearby containing the remains of an ancient synagogue, got their name from the Arab village that once stood  here,
The Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park, located at the nearby kibbutz Heftziba, contains an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue, with a mosaic floor depicting the lunar Hebrew months as they correspond to the signs of the zodiac .
Driving past the current kibbutz, we passed a Wall and Tower structure:
Between 1936 and 1947, when the Jewish National Fund sought to both establish "facts on the ground" and settle land it purchased in Mandatory Palestine far from other Jewish populations, a major concern was vulnerability to Arab attacks. In response, Jews established the strategy of erecting "Stockade and Watchtower" settlements (also called "Wall and Tower" or Chomah V'Migdal in Hebrew) using an old Ottoman rule which prohibited the demolition of roved structures on landowners property.
Lunch was at a Moroccan restaurant that pretty much served the same thing as everyone else. Learning a lesson from the abundance of food we got yesterday, we didn't even order a lunch, they just brought over the regular stuff - which is enough to feed a horse! Plus, if you run out of something, they refill it. We left sated and pressed on to Beit Shean, a great archaeological dig.
You can see the history of Israel through the archaeological remains from each historic period. On the elevated mound are remains of the Canaanite and Egyptian cities and at the foot of the mound are the extensive remains of the Roman city. The excavation and reconstruction offers a clear picture of what the city would have looked like. This former Roman metropolis was home to 30,000 to 40,000 citizens and covered approximately 370 acres.
Visitors to the park can see the ancient wall that surrounded the city, public baths, a Roman temple, stores, artisan workshops and other well preserved structures. The central Palladius street runs for 24 meters and is lined by colonnades. Historians established that the street was named after a 4th century Roman governor after uncovering an inscription. There are rare mosaics and a Roman amphitheater which is still in use today.
Still more to go. Arrived at Capharnaum. The home of St. Peter, where Jesus visited and the synagogue where Jesus preached and performed miracles.

The ruins of this building, among the oldest synagogues in the world, were identified by Charles William Wilson. The large, ornately carved, white building stones of the synagogue stood out prominently among the smaller, plain blocks of local black basalt used for the town's other buildings, almost all residential. The synagogue was built almost entirely of white blocks of calcareous stone brought from distant quarries.
The building consists of four parts: the praying hall, the western patio, a southern balustrade and a small room at the northwest of the building. The praying hall measured 24.40 ms by 18.65 m, with the southern face looking toward Jerusalem.
We followed the Pilgrims to one last site - Mensa Christi Church down by the sea.
The three decades Jesus spent in Nazareth are commonly called the “silent years.” Over the centuries, Christians have sought sites in Nazareth to commemorate events from Jesus’ life. Mensa Christi, Latin for "Table of Christ" contains a slab of granite that, according to tradition, was the rock on which Jesus dined with the disciples after his resurrection. 
This is a church over a slab of granite! Apparently, they built a church over everything they could find. We headed down to the sea.  Dipped my hands in and now Jerry B is now part of the Sea of Galilee. At this point, we had had quite enough of the Christianity tour. The masses of "pilgrims" from all countries is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that they all seem pretty pompous.

It was time to see some Jews. Nachum set out for Tzfat (Safed).Took a stroll down their lovely cobbled paths passed the beautiful galleries and craftsmen before exploring the synagogues.
Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and in Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters. Since the 16th century, Safed has been considered one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities, along with JerusalemHebron and Tiberias; since that time, the city has remained a center of Kabbalah, also known as Jewish mysticism.
Kabbalah (literally "receiving/tradition") is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought that originated in Judaism. A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mekubbal  
We visited two synagogues. One empty so we got to go in and explore.  It was only one big room decorated very modestly. The other synagogue was just finishing prayers - so I could not go in.  Prayers ended shortly and we walked around the very small building. There was a small space behind a wall for the women. A few benches for the men and they sat where they could. Again, the decor is modest and much more folksy than the churches.

For non-religious people, I think we have had our full of religion. We are abandoning our itinerary and heading out for some biking around the bird sanctuary.  Plus another surprise I will write about later. For now, we are here at the kibbutz for another night. This place is packed. Lots of groups and many families. Hopefully, we'll have some time to explore the grounds.  It is very peaceful.

Next time.. Bikes and birds

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Tour - Day 2


  1. Hey! I recognize some of these places! One of the places we went on our trip was Tzfat. That picture you took of the guy sitting in that art place looks like where I got the magnets! And I'm pretty sure I went in the second synagogue that you took pictures of. I think nearby there was also where I got Dad's Celtics kippah.

    1. Actually, no, I remember seeing one there and thinking about getting it, but I didn't. I ended up getting it in Jerusalem later on.