Travelling the Holy Land (1)

Having arrived in the Holy Land, we stayed overnight in Nazareth and awoke early to witness sunrise over the surrounding hills. Getting the wake-up call at 6h00 was my regular time to get up back home in Wittenberg as Israel is one hour ahead of Berlin both in winter and in summer. I did not go for my daily run nor did I go through some stretching routine. Getting to breakfast by 6h30 was hurried enough as it was. The temperatures had dropped to 6° overnight, but the prospects were that the thermometer would rise to 19° in the course of the day.

Breakfast was a sumptuous affair with all sorts of breads, meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits and sweets spread out on the buffet. Most importantly they had coffee machines (one was broken!) and the long lines leading up to them, underlined their relevance. I enjoyed lemons and grapefruit, but also yoghurt and all sorts of oriental spices and delicacies. The wide spread was something extraordinary.

In the bus we put on our headphones and after Eayd counted the group up and down several times as he would now do at nearly every stop, we got going and to see Nazareth from the street. It is populated by muslims mostly and is the most islamic city in the north of Israel. Still, Eayd is convinced, they live in good neighbourhood with the (few) Christians there.

We drove to Beit She´arim. This is one of the most holy sites of Judaism and a world heritage site. The famous rabbi Jehuda HaNasi wrote down the Mishna here. This was the place, where the Jewish Sanhedrin gathered, when they were expelled from Jerusalem by caesar Hadrian, who is to rott in hell for all the evil he brought down on the Jews. We looked at many of the ancient burial sites of the Jews, who used this extensively as an alternative to Jerusalem until the fifth century. Then the site was covered up and only discovered in 1936 by Alexander Zaid. The excavated graves are a site to see. I was reminded of the biblical passage: “… wie die Juden ihre Toten zu begraben pflegen.” (Johannes 19,40) The hanging gardens are beautiful – not just the “Judasbaum“. Lots of birds were flying about and singing in the trees – not just the European bee eater. Israel is a safe haven for birds on their migratory route down to Africa and up to Europe. We even saw a hoopoe, the national bird of Israel. We could have stayed much longer in this beautiful place, but as the tour was sightseeing we pushed on for more and other things on the agenda. Much was left by the way side, but some things we managed to see.

Travelling on the 75 we passed the impressive Karmel mountains all clad in spring greens and in hardly no time, we were down at the Nahal Meárot Nature Reserve – another world heritage site. It reminded me a lot of the “Cradle of Humankind” in the Magaliesberg near Hartebeespoortdam. We even saw some dassies, which were the main attraction to most Germans, who had not seen those yet and thought I was mad, when I pointed out, that they are biologically related to elephants. What I liked about this sightseeing tour, was that you could get out of the bus now and again – take a stroll up the mountainside, watch some birds, photograph some flowers and enjoy the atmosphere of banana plantations, eucalyptus trees and all the fresh air, you could hope for. All these sites were covered entry-wise by the tour. That was nice too.

From there we drove down to Haifa – a beautiful see town, which actually sports French and German quarters, has wonderful parks and villas and the impressive Bahai world centre too. The German colony was established by Templars from Württemberg in the 19th century, but because of their Nazi association were expelled by the British during the big war. No wonder this too is a world heritage site, just as the next town: Akko.

We walked through the bazaar of Akko leading to the seashore and were dumbfounded by the magnificent structures left behind by the Templars: St. John of Accre. All of that had been covered up with dirt by the Ottoman Turks, but has been brought to light in this century by Israel archeologists. Fabulous really.

From Akko we returned to Nazareth and had a good look at the Greek orthodox basilica of the Annunciation (Verkündigungskirche), the place where Jesus was obedient to his parents and where St. Joseph had his carpentry and Mary went about her daily chores. This definitely was the highlight of the day – and we could look forward to a well earned nights rest.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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