I made a point of traveling to Galilee on this trip to Israel since I didn't go the first time. The Old City is fascinating because of its mystique. Galilee is fascinating because it's the setting for so much of scripture (particularly NT). Unfortunately, we didn't stop at every notable location. I wanted to get shots of Meggido (Armageddon), but we just passed and waved. We also passed by Migdal (Magdala) without a photo op. However, we did get to see some of of the most important sites.
Our first stop was Nazareth. The tour guide noted that people are often disappointed when they see Nazareth because it looks nothing like they expect. After all, it's a modern city.
The population is predominantly Arab, about 69% Muslim and 31% Christian. Another city close by, Nazareth Illit, is predominantly Jewish. You see a lot of this in Israel, an Arab town next to a Jewish town. Some are mixed (such as Jaffa and Haifa), but by and large, that is the exception rather than the rule.
The Basilica of the Annunication is built on top of the first century ruins of Nazareth. At that time, the population was probably no more than 200 people.
The exterior courtyard is decorated with mosaics of all kinds, one for each country, depicting the Madonna and child. There are some stunningly beautiful ones inside as well. I took a picture of the Polish mosaic for Fr. Mariusz, our new parochial vicar.
The grotto on the first floor of the basilica is where tradition says that Gabriel appeared to Mary. There was a group of Dominican priests celebrating Mass and chanting beautifully. My shot of the grotto didn't come out as well as I would've liked. I only wish I could have gotten closer.
The main chapel is upstairs. The walls there also had mosaics, but the main altar was perhaps the most impressive thing there.
We then went up the street to the Church of St. Joseph, purportedly built on the location of St. Joseph's workshop. Something many people don't realize is that Joseph was probably not a carpenter. Israel doesn't really have a lot of trees (or at least didn't at the during the first century). However, there's plenty of stone. Most of the buildings are made of stone of some kind. The Greek word for Joseph's occupation was τέκτων (tekton) which meant craftsman. Anyway, here's the mosaic floor of a Byzantine baptismal pool built on this location.
By the way, if you want to see some really good photos of these locations, check out Bible Walks. Their work is much better than mine.
After a quick look around Nazareth, we went back to the bus. If you are tempted to load up on souvenirs in the Old City when you make your pilgrimage, don't. The prices are outrageous. You'll fare much better if you wait until you go to Galilee. I was able to buy six icons for $25 US. In the Old City, one would've cost over $10.
We headed northeast toward Capernaum and Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee/Tiberius or Lake Genesaret). On the way, we passed Mt. Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration.
Let me tell you, speaking as someone who lives in a hot, semi-arrid climate, Galilee is hot, and in Capernaum, humid. We scrambled for every bit of shade we could find as we walked from point to point.
Most of the Capernaum archaeological site is owned by the Catholic Church. This location was a large city of 5000 in the first century. There is an octogonal church built over the home of St. Peter (and over a 5th century church).
As with many traditional sites, the floor in the center of the church is glass so people can see the first-century ruins.
The place I really wanted to see while I was here was the synagogue, primarily because Jesus taught there on more than one occasion. The current ruin is actually built on top of the one that would've been in place at the time of Christ. Quite cool, nonetheless.
To the east of the Catholic Church's compound is a Greek Orthodox church. I found out later that one of my tutors at Holy Apostles knows the priest at this church and likes to go there to swim in the lake.
Finally, I wanted a photo of the shore of Lake Kinneret. Israel is currently experiencing severe water shortages. All of their water comes from Mt. Hermon in Syria and flows down to Kinnerett. As you can see, the level has dropped very low.
Then it was off to the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha. This is also the traditional location for the sighting of Jesus prior to the ascension in John 21.
I was sort of captivated by this fountain in the narthex of the church.
I've already posted a photo of the fishes and loaves mosaic. Just above that, underneath the altar is the rock upon which Jesus was to have multiplied the loaves.
This church is built upon the ruins of two others. It's also just down the hill from the Church of the Mount of Beatitudes, the traditional location for, what else, the preaching of the Beatitudes. We didn't walk up to that church, probably because of its relatively late construction. The octogonal shape of many of these churches is supposedly representative of the eight blessings (and I suppose alternatively the eight curses).
Our last stop was at the river Jordan at a site most likely close to where St. John the Baptist ministered. We watched as a group of Russian Orthodox pilgrims immersed themselves (after singing a lovely hymn). I was pleased to see that they didn't do the rebaptism thing, as they believe (as we do) that we only need "one baptism for the forgiveness of sin."
This tour was well worth the time and expense. I look forward to a day when I can get around to these places and spend more time, but for now, the tours will do.
By the way, if you follow some of the shows on the History channel, you can expect to run into some of the documentary hosts that you see on those shows. On my first visit, I walked right behind the Naked Archaeologist himself, Simcha Jacobivici. I was disappointed when he got involved in the whole Tomb of Jesus thing, but I still like his show. This time, as I was walking by a dig next to the south wall of the Old City, and I saw one of the regular experts on many of these shows. In any case, it's a fascinating place to go.
At the end of the week, I took another tour of Caeserea, Acre, and Haifa. Those photos are coming soon.