Today was another early start as we needed to be packed, rooms cleared, breakfasted and on the coach by 7.30am for our move to Galilee and the next phase of our pilgrimage. Of course we are not going directly to Galilee. Our first stop is at the village of Abu Ghosh, which is one of three possible sites of Emmaus, where the resurrected Jesus revealed himself to two downcast disciples (Luke 24, 13-33).
Now a small town, Abu Ghosh has, apparently, the earliest traces of human habitation in Israel, and a fascinating history. Traditionally it has been identified with Anathoth, birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah and as the place where the Ark of the Covenant remained for twenty years in the house of Abinadab, until King David brought it up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6, 1-19). We visited the Benedictine monastery there, which has a beautiful chapel.
Our next stop was quite a surprise! I think the picture says it all!
We made a slight detour on our way to our next scheduled destination, and came to a filling station with a cafe entirely devoted to Elvis Presley. The statue in the picture is one of many Elvis memorabilia which includes pictures covering every wall. If you buy a drink it is served in an Elvis mug that you get to keep.
After our brief refreshment stop (I didn’t get an Elvis mug; I got an ice-cream instead. Personally I’ve always been more a Roy Orbison fan!) we went on to our next destination which was the seaside own of Caesarea Maritima – not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi which is tomorrow’s visit. Now a national park, Caesarea Maritima was built by Herod the Great and for some time was the capital of the Province of Judea under Roman rule. It was a grandiose building project which included a massive harbour, and a hippodrome, as well as an arena.
After a video introduction to the site, and a tour of some of the ruins we went to lunch in one of the many restaurants in the central area and then picked up our coach again for a trip to Nazareth.
Nazareth is now a sizeable town, and growing. The Basilica of the Annunciation is a huge building built in 1969 over the remains of a Crusader church, which in turn was built over the remains of a Byzantine chapel over the cave where traditionally Mary lived and was visited by the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1, 26-38). The Greek Orthodox tradition, however, has it that the Visitation occurred when Mary was at a spring nearby, and they have built a church at that site.
On the walls of the courtyard surrounding the Basilica there are murals, some mosaics, of the interpretation of the Annuciation by various countries, some forty or fifty of them, and it was a necessary reminder – if one was still needed – that our image of the Holy Family is not automatically shared by the rest of the world. Some of the murals were exquisitely beautiful; others were full of colour and liveliness. It was fascinating!
Equally fascinating were the bronze doors of the Basilica, which showed scenes from the life of Jesus.
From here we went to the Church of St Joseph, where we were disappointed to find that access to the lower part, the traditional site of Joseph’s workshop, was not accessible as new archaeological investigations and restorations were taking place.
Finally, it was back on the coach to our new hotel at Tiberias, the Ron Beach Hotel <http://tinyurl.com/ktroo3h> on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, passing by as we went the village of Cana.