Today we started with Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, about a 45 minute drive from our base in Tiberias. It was hot today! Tiberias got up to 109 degrees, so the 100 degrees in Nazareth should have felt cool, but it didn’t.
Our first stop was the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is supposed to be the spot where Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she was pregnant with Jesus. I loved the church! It is filled with beautiful mosaics, both inside and outside, donated by various countries. I could have spent hours studying them.
The first floor had an altar over the spot where they believe this event happened. This floor is mostly stone and has an older feel. The second floor is where the main cathedral is and has the largest of the mosaics. The one gifted by the United States is one of the exceptions to the mosaic theme and while beautiful, it has a more modern feel to the piece. The third floor was not accessible, but it looked like there was a lot of nice stained glass on that level. The basement was the ruins of the ancient city of Nazareth. It is definitely a place that every visitor should try and see.
Next door was the Church of St. Joseph. It was beautiful, but had a lot more natural rock caverns. I loved the mosaic showing the holy family in a somewhat more natural home setting.
One interesting detail is that if you take the property lines of both the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Church of St. Joseph, that is the entire size of the village of Nazareth when Jesus was a child. Quite small, particularly in comparison with how big the city is now.
We took a very hot walk through town, ending at Mary’s Well.
Next to the well was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. The outside of the church was quite plain, but typical of this denomination, on the inside there was a lot of elaborate wood carvings on screens holding the beautiful gold and silver icons. The walls and ceilings had beautiful paintings.
It was a little early, but since Nazareth had a lot of restaurants (bonus: most of them are open on Shabbat), we stopped for lunch. I had a delicious salad with bulgar, chickpeas, tomatoes, lemon, and mint. Jeremy got a shawarma wrap, and the boys enjoyed pizza and burgers.
We decided to head back to the car and see if Mount Tabor was a bit cooler. No luck. 105 degrees. The road there was interesting. Inside Nazareth, Waze took us to one of the steepest hills we have ever driven up. The only comparison was a road nicknamed “Suicide Hill” in my hometown, but I think that this one was both steeper and much longer. Much to our relief, we made it up without rolling back down, flipping over backwards, or running out of steam. The next interesting road was when we got to the base of Mount Tabor. The switchbacks are quite intense, and the road is a little wider than the width of the car, but it was a two way road, which made the blind corners a bit nerve wracking.
Once we got there, we found out that the Church of the Transfiguration was closed from 12-2, so we had a 20 minute wait until opening. We decided to wander the grounds and imagine what the disciples though about what they had witnessed at this important point in history. The views were quite nice.
We found an outdoor chapel that had a little shade from a whicker-like roof, but it really wasn’t much cooler than being in the full sun. By 2:10, the church still wasn’t open, but we felt like fried eggs, so we went back to the car, satisfied with our views of the outside of the church.
At this point, we considered going to the Megiddo, which is the place in Revelation where the Armageddon is supposed to happen. But we were hot, miserably hot, and decided to go back to our apartment and enjoy views of the Sea of Galilee from our air conditioned window, and rest a little as well, after a long week in Israel. The view of the lake on our drive back was quite nice.
One interesting observation is that the Sea of Galilee is actually lower in elevation than Death Valley. It is over 600 feet below sea level. No wonder it gets so hot here.