Our early morning walkers had a brisk three-mile trek that ended up at the tomb of Rabbi Moise ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides – or The Rambam, for short. He was a 12th century Jewish thinker-lawyer-physician-scholar-philosopher who had enormous impact on Jewish interpretation of the Law. He is buried just a few blocks from our hotel. The site has become a pilgrimage destination for Jews. It has been recently upgraded and is stunning.
After breakfast we gathered to worship in the little Scottish church. We had a lively discussion about our experience thus far. It’s been a great trip and a wonderful group. The biblical and current political exposure has stirred things up; we may put together follow-up classes to pursue some things more deeply.
When we left the church to exit through the courtyard out to the street we found we had been locked in. Mary had scaled the back wall to get in the Church, since the gate was locked for her after we had already begun worship. So…I went around back, put a chair on a big flat rock, climbed up the chair and went over the wall. The hotel security staff member was a little confused, but he went and released the captives down at the church.
A good start to the day!
Our first stop was Sephorris, a vast site best known for its mosaics (the “Mona Lisa” of mosaics) and the large Roman city that was there in Jesus’ time. It’s only about four miles from Nazareth; scholars assume Jesus and his father, both called “tekton” in the Greek – meaning stone worker – may have labored at Sepphoris.
Beth and I remembered walking right by the site as we set out from Nazareth on our walk down to Capernaum in 2016. Our group got a kick out of my asking Beth every few miles on the way to the site, over the mic system (she was seated with Madeline further back), “Do you remember that, Beth? Look!” She was good natured and replied, “Yes!” Over and over again.
From Sepphoris we drove the short distance to Nazareth in about ten minutes, until we got stuck in a traffic jam. Finally our guide George grew exasperated and got us all off the bus and we walked several blocks to our first destination in the city: an old synagogue. It doesn’t date as far back as the time of Jesus, but scholars assume it is very much like the synagogue in which he prayed – and from which his neighbors drove him out to the edge of the city to throw him over the cliff, but didn’t.
From the old synagogue we made our way back through the Old City market, to the lunch place. One last shawarma or schnitzel or falafel.
The final Nazareth stop was the enormous Church of the Annunciation. It is really a striking building, both inside and out. It is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. There are fabulous art installations from all over the world (only not Cuba!), depicting Mary in a wide range of cultural contexts. The effect is remarkable…the identification of Mary in what feels like every culture on the planet.
A quick walk downhill to the bus and we were on our way back to the Sea of Galilee, where our boat waited for us. We had missed our reserved sailing time, but fortunately another group had canceled at a later time that fit our schedule. We set sail after a movie and exhibition about an ancient boat that had been found in the mud and water not far from there. It’s a boat (restored) not unlike one Jesus would have used to get around the lake.
Our 21st century boat ride was wonderful. The wind had calmed down. The sun was setting over Mt. Arbel and the Horns of Hittim, where the great Muslim leader Saladin defeated the Crusaders in July of 1187. The view from the lake was superb. We sat in silence on the water and simply floated for quite some time. A very peaceful conclusion to an active, full day!
Tonight was our Farewell Dinner (or, The Last Supper) – after the wine tasting attended by almost all the group. After we finished desert, Kathy gave out awards to each person. Lots of laughter. Good fun. We singled out our driver, Akram, and our guide, George, for special recognition.
Tomorrow we have a later start, after worship with communion. Hard to believe we then turn toward Tel Aviv and the airport.