Travelling the Holy Land (2)

Sunday morning in Nazareth gets started with a lot of bells and ringing. The loud cries of the muezzin for Friday prayers are nearly forgotten. The Sabbath is over and it is the new day, the Lord has made. We are on the road early. So early in fact, that the priest at Cana´s church, where Jesus changed water into wine is not even back yet from the bakery. We stand in front of closed doors. The sign reads, that the church is closed on Sundays. That is a disappointment. Throughout town they advertise the wine from Cana, but the church is locked. I go up and down the narrow isle, hoping to catch a better glimpse of this site, where Jesus performed his first miracle. That is where I come across the priest with the buns and rolls from the bakery. We get him to open up and suddenly, the day looks even brighter.

From Cana we leave for the Sea of Galilee (See Genezareth). It is very much like travelling the high veld. Lots of green pastures, rough mountains, plantations and fields. We have got a number of sights to see on this Sunday – all of which featured prominently in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. First we go to the sight, where he proclaimed the sermon of the Mount. The place is owned by the Catholics. They have put up an impressive chapel on the Mount of the Beatitudes. There were African rose-ringed parakeets up in the palm trees, lots of blooming orange trees and visitors from all over. I talked to groups from Porto Rico (Spanish) and from South Korea. They were all treading in Jesus footsteps. For me that was one of the highlights. Jesus calling his disciples on the beach of the Sea of Galilee – down at the orthodox chapel – and sending them to the ends of the world. Now, centuries later, I stand here where it all started and witness people coming from the very ends of the earth to see, what they believe.

The chapel of the Beatitudes has some nice mosaics and impressive views across the lake below – right across to the Golan heights in the East, but also over to Tiberias on the West coast. The place is expansive and I am so glad, that the Roman catholics and Greek Orthodox plus Armenians and other Christian sects take good care of these historic places – and we as Lutherans are not just left with some stark and empty muslim shrines like on the temple mount in Jerusalem. Here You can see the mosaic depicting bread and fish, where Jesus miraculously feed more than five thousand men without counting woman and children.

Down at the lake the Greek orthodox run a monastery of the holy Apostles, where Jesus sent out his disciples asking St. Peter thrice: “Do You love me?” I really like this church in its beautiful garden setting along the shores of the lake: “In 1995-2000, the church was painted by the Greek artist Konstantin Dzumakis. The walls of the church depict gospel scenes, many of which took place in Capernaum and its environs: the calming of the storm, Jesus walking on water, the amazing catch of fish from John 21, and Jesus healing the sick.”

Next door is an impressive Franciscan monastery, which takes care of the ruins at Capernaum and St. Peter´s Church there too. It´s situated on the site of St. Peter´s mother-in-law´s house. There are many ruins to be seen too. The old synagogue, which also suffered serious damage in the earth quakes of yesteryear (749 A.D). We drove to a nice park along the sea – ate “Peter´s fish” and even joined a boat tour on the lake. What a splash! That was before we got to some place along a river, where American Baptists go for their emotional washings. There were seriously big carp and barbel in the river, some beautiful birds in the trees, but the Baptists got most attention.

From here we left for Bethlehem in the South. It took some time. We visited a Kibbutz on the way. Very impressive dairy business and we got into a heated discussion on how happy cows should be in providing milk for the nations.

We drove through parts of the W.Bank, came down to Jericho, saw Beduin settlements, Israeli settlers too and drove up to Jerusalem and into the walled-off areas of Bethlehem, where we would stay the next three nights. The security doors and gates impressed me. They were often well crafted, heavy metal without anything to grip on, but mostly depicting crosses or other religious signs to show the affiliation of the owner. The signs were clear – and Cape Town is but 7, 517km away.

The first night in the Hotel “Nativity” Angelika and I walked through down town Bethlehem. This was quite a walk. We wanted to find the church of our Lord´s nativity, but I went off in the wrong direction, so in the end we found plenty churches, monasteries and christian schools, but not church of the nativity. It was perfectly safe even if the cars went about at breakneck speeds, the pavements were often blocked by men in black selling green almonds, smoking some tobacco, drinking coffee and discussing this or that in Palestinian/Arabic. At some fruit shop I tried to get directions. The young salesman did not get my English. So, that did not go far. Another boy tried to scare the shit out of us by exploding his crackers just behind our backs. Nothing serious, but he still had us nearly jump out of our skins. The next shots were then somewhat expected and nothing half as frightening as the first surprising ones. Somewhere in down town, we got some water. The salesman kept fifty shekels back, but when I complained to his old man, he quickly handed the rest of change over. Probably he thought, that he could get away with robbing a stupid tourist, but I was not having any of that kind of daylight robbery. Not even close to midnight in Bethlehem.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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