Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mediterranean Adventures – Part 9 (Haifa/Nazareth/Galilee Israel)

We pulled into Haifa Israel and the weather was exactly what you expected, from the Middle East…in September. The temperatures hit 36 degC (106 degF) while we were out touring. Plus we were dressed in modesty wear which didn't make it any less hot.

Now Dana and I are seasoned enough travelers to be confident in a foreign city…however, we weren’t even going to attempt Israel. Admittedly, 90% of the country is totally peaceful, but knowing our luck, we likely would stumble into that 10%. So we signed up for the official tour, along with the other 60+ crowd on our tour bus. Believe me, the air conditioned bus was probably the highlight of their day.
Our tour guide was a brilliant PhD student in biblical history. He gave tons of history and insightful facts with zero religious bias.

Our first stop was the ruins of the ancient city Capernaum. They were excavating the house of St. Peter which had a secret synagogue inside where Jesus preached. The capitals of the columns (tops) were decorated with menorahs.

The Church of the Multiplication was a short drive away along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The floor has a 5th century byzantine mosaic depicting the two fish and five loaves that were multiplied to feed the masses. Note the mosaic only shows four loaves with the fifth presumably Jesus.

Mount of Beatitudes was the location of the sermon on the mount. I could see why he would preach here because it was gorgeous! Seriously something out of a post card with the rolling hills, farms, and sea in the background. We also had a good view of the Golan Heights. I can see why Syria keeps fighting Israel for that patch of land…it is totally the high ground and therefore the perfect place to launch missiles.

We waded in the Jordan River where the famed Jesus baptism occurred. Baptisms are still performed there. Dana and I both dipped our legs in the river where the fish kept nibbling at our feet. Seriously, it was jarring having something try to swallow your toe. The entrance was right off of a giant tourist shop. Not exactly keeping the play sacred huh.

Our lunch was at a communal farm called a Kibbutz. The food was awesome (no bacon though) and we loved the Israeli wine (light and sweet).

Off to Nazareth to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Apparently it is the largest Christian church in the Middle East. It is built around the grotto where the Archangel Gabriel made his famous announcement to Mary. Not be a spoiler, but the grotto looked more like a cave.

Nearby was Joseph's carpenter workshop where Jesus was raised. Tradition would hold that Joseph would bring his wife to live with his parents or at least nearby. That means Joseph is the biblical boy next door (ha!).

The port of Haifa is considered the Silicon Valley of Israel because it is on the cutting edge of technology. It is also home to the world headquarters to the Baha'i' religion. The temple/church/whatever is on a hill overlooking the port. The really spectacular part is how it looks at night.

Now funny signs.
Men shall not wear short shorts and cropped tank tops (I agree)

Dogs, short clothing, and guns not allowed. Are they really considered equally bad?

Do not climb the tower and dump a briefcase


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