Below is a journal of my first weekend in Israel where I travel North of Israel.
Day 3, 10th Jan’15 : North Israel.
We had the typical Israeli breakfast of cheese, bread and omelette around 8 AM. At 9 AM, we met our tour guide, Jacob. He came to Israel from Poland in 1957. He told us about the plan of covering the north of Israel and told us lots of biblical stories over the day. He had a unique way of telling a story, he used to ask us answers to questions. For instance, capital of Israel (FYI -its Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv); story of David vs Goliath and other questions on Christianity.
Our first stop was the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth. This church is built on the cave where Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she will give birth to King of all Men, Jesus. This Church is one of the largest in the Middle east and had cave replica made inside the church. Around the periphery of the church, there were paintings from all over the world depicting Jesus and Mary (it showed how differently Jesus and Mary are viewed across the world). On the gate of the church, there were carvings that depicted stories from The Old and The New Testament. There was a mosaic work art on the first floor of the church. It was a beautiful painting depicting Mary as queen in the background, Jesus and Peter where Jesus is shown taller than Peter. It was a wonderful experience. I learnt a lot of things about Christianity. While walking into the church, my knowledge about Christianity was limited but when I walked out of the church, I knew a lot more. Thanks to Jacob.
Our second stop was the Greek orthodox church of Annunciation, the only church of the crusader era alive today. Jacob told us the story of how it was saved during the crusader war when one of the Christian pretended to be the crusader who was given the responsibility to look after the church. This way, he was able to save the church. It is a tiny church where you have to go down the stairs to go to the cave like place. There was a small steam flowing below the cave, whose water is considered to be holy water.
Our third stop was the Church of Heptapegon, venerated a large rock where Jesus is said to have laid the bread and fish before he fed 5000 people. It has been destroyed several times and has been restored several times too. It had huge palm trees at the entrance and mosaic work on the floor of the church. There was a peacock drawn that indicates eternity in Christianity. It was a small church with lot of mosaic work on the ground from AD era. Then we drove to our next stop with a view of Sea of Galilee as our background.
Our fourth stop was Capharnuam, the town of Jesus. Here Jesus performed most of his miracles. It is the next to the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water. It is actually a lake, but in old times if people couldn’t see the end of a lake they would call it a sea, hence it came to be known as a sea. We also saw Peter’s caves where Jesus stayed. Above the Jesus cave, a church was made with a transparent material, you can go inside and see the cave from the top. There were lot of artefacts found by the archaeologist in the extraction of the area that were kept outside for the display. There was a huge bronze statue of Peter. The view of Sea of Galilee was beautiful with light blue colour water reflecting different shades of light.
Our fifth stop was Kibbutz where we had our lunch. It is a huge place that can accommodate 1000 people at a time. It is also situated on the bank of Sea of Galilee. Every one order fresh fish as per the description ‘it was one of the best fish they ever had’. I ordered pasta, sometimes being a vegetarian sucks. Anyways, it was one of the most heaviest and tasty lunch of our trip, none of us could finish it. Jacob said that hobbies of Israelis is eating, now I understood what he meant.
After our heavy lunch, he drove us to Golan Heights and told about the war which was fought between Israel and Syria for this area and which lasted 6 days. He showed us the Jordan border that had electric fencing along the road side.
Then we went to the Jordan River where Baptism takes place. Jesus was baptized in Jordan but since many people can’t go to Jordan, they commercialized this place for Baptism. Honestly, I felt this place was one of those place where you make money on the name of religion as they were charging heavily for baptism in the holy water of Jordan. I just felt that the entire establishment was expensive and commercializing on the name of Baptism.
We reached our hotel in the evening.