Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Jerusalem International YMCA- History by Aviva Bar Am

No other site in Jerusalem is as laden with symbols as the Jerusalem Young Men's Christian Association. Reflected on its walls, ceilings, stones and pillars are manifestations of the world's three greatest faiths, a statement of unity that remains stable in a city too often shattered by war. The international YMCA theme in which a triangle represents the body, the mind and the soul is repeated throughout the building.

In front of the building stand 12 cypress trees, a symbolic number representing Jesus' disciples, the Israelite tribes and the followers of Mohammed. Forty pillars in its courtyard and portico symbolize the Jews' 40 years in the desert and Jesus' 40 days of temptation. Each column is topped by an ornamental capital sculpted to illustrate biblical fauna and flora.

The archangel, in bas relief, on the carillon tower was designed by the Bezalel artist Ze'ev Raban. The capitals along the loggia are carved with representations of local flora and fauna, as are the capitals along the arcades leading to each of the two domed extensions, one of which contains the Byzantine-ornamented auditorium, the other the gymnasium.

On the floor of the outer entrance is a copy of the mosaic Madeba Map (another is on display at the Roman Cardo in the Jewish Quarter). Over the door which leads into the building is a glass window decorated with an olive branch. In order to keep this symbol of peace from shattering during the War of Independence, the window was removed each time there was violence in the city. One day, in 1948, a shell flew through the hole where the window had been and hit the ceiling. Fortunately it didn't explode and the ceiling was later repaired.

At the end of World War I the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate began selling some of its Jerusalem property. Land was sold to the Jews - who built in Rehavia; land was sold to the Arabs, who built in Talbieh; and land was sold to the YMCA, so that the organization could build a monument to peace. So impressed with the idea were the Jews of Manchester, England, that they contributed to its construction!

Dr. Archibald C. Harte, General Secretary of the International YMCA, had the vision. He wanted to serve people of all faiths and nationalities in the Holy Land, and impressed millionaire James Jarvie of New Jersey with his ideas. On Christmas Eve of 1924, Harte found $400,000 in his Christmas stocking - a gift from Jarvie. Jarvie was eventually to add another $600,000 to this sum, dying before he saw the end result of this largess. The architect was Arthur Louis Harmon, whose firm designed New York's world-famous Empire State Building.

Far more modern than other contemporary Jerusalem buildings, the YMCA had the city's first heated swimming pool and its first real gymnasium - complete with a wooden floor. The first concerts broadcast from the Jewish radio station (the Voice of Israel) were transmitted from its stunning auditorium.

Dr. Archibald C. Harte had envisioned a monument to peace that would serve people of all faiths and nationalities in the Holy Land. His dream came true with a vengeance: besides a famous swim team and outstanding fitness programs, the YMCA sponsors a leaders' club for youth with a mixed inter-religious membership. Most unusual is the organization's preschool. From the days only a decade or so ago when it operated one classroom with about 13 Jewish toddlers, the preschool now includes at least half a dozen classrooms, a plethora of adult staff and 135 Christian, Jewish and Moslem children.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mamluk Architecture in Jerusalem

The Mamluk buildings of Jerusalem have elaborate façades on which most of the decorative elements were concentrated. The entrances are recessed in the façade, with high stone benches on either side. Some of the characteristic decorative elements of the Mamluk period are:

Mukarnas - graduated, three-dimensional stone stalactites in the half-dome above the entrance.

Ablak - striped masonry. Courses of the beautiful cream-colored local limestone are alternated with courses of differently colored stone, usually red, but also black and yellow.

[Above is the Palace and Mausoleum of Lady Tunshuq on Aqbat Street west of the Harem al-Sharif]

All of the main Mamluk features are exhibited in the Palace of the Lady Tunshuq, built in 1388 and found halfway down Aqabat at-Takiya. The façade is badly eroded; however, the uppermost of the three large doorways still has some beautiful inlaid marblework, while a recessed window is decorated with another Mamluk trademark, the stone 'stalactites' known as mukarnas. The palace complex now serves as workshops and an orphanage. Opposite the palace is the Tomb of the Lady Tunshuq.

Klebo - interlacing stones in different colors, carved in a variety of profiles and laid in intertwining, puzzle-like fashion.

Inscriptions, in elegant Arabic script, include quotations from the Kur'an, but also the name of the builder and the date of construction.

Overshadowed by the splendours of the Haram ash-Sharif/Temple Mount, and clustered outside its northern and western walls, stand excellent examples from the golden age of Islamic architecture: Palace of the Lady Tunshuq (1388), Tomb of the Lady Tunshuq (1398), Ribat Bayram Jawish (1540), Tariq Bab al-Hadad St (1358 to 1440), Souq al-Qattanin, Sabil Suleyman and the Tomb of Turkan Khatun (1352).

This area was developed during the era of the Mamluks (1250-1517), a military dynasty of former slaves ruling out of Egypt. They drove the Crusaders out of Palestine and Syria and followed this up with an equally impressive campaign of construction, consolidating Islam's presence in the Levant with masses of mosques, madrasas (theological schools), hostels, monasteries and mausoleums. Their buildings are typically characterised by the banding of red-and-white stone (a technique known as ablaq) and by the elaborate carvings and patterning around windows and in the recessed portals.

All of these features are exhibited in the Palace of the Lady Tunshuq, built in 1388 and found halfway down Aqabat at-Takiya. The façade is badly eroded; however, the uppermost of the three large doorways still has some beautiful inlaid marblework, while a recessed window is decorated with another Mamluk trademark, the stone 'stalactites' known as muqarnas. The palace complex now serves as workshops and an orphanage. Opposite the palace is the Tomb of the Lady Tunshuq.

Continue downhill to the junction with Al-Wad Rd, passing on your right, just before the corner, the last notable piece of Mamluk architecture built in Jerusalem, the Ribat Bayram Jawish (1540), a one-time pilgrims' hospice. Compare this with the buildings on Tariq Bab an-Nazir St, straight across Al-Wad, which are Jerusalem's earliest Mamluk structures, built in the 1260s before the common use of ablaq. This street is named after the gate at the end, which leads through into the Haram ash-Sharif/Temple Mount, but non-Muslims may not enter here.

Some 100m south on Al-Wad Rd is Tariq Bab al-Hadad St; it looks uninviting but wander down, through the archway, and enter a street entirely composed of majestic Mamluk structures. Three of the four façades belong to madrassas, dating variously from 1358 to 1440, while the single-storey building is a ribat, or hospice, dating from 1293.

Back on Al-Wad Rd, continuing south the road passes the Souq al-Qattanin and then, on the left, a sabil (drinking fountain dating from Ottoman times), Sabil Suleyman. It terminates in a police checkpoint at the mouth of the tunnel down to the Western Wall plaza. However, the stairs to the left lead up to the busy Bab as-Silsila St and the Bab as-Silsila Gate (which leads to the Temple Mount). Just before the gate is the tiny kiosk-like Tomb of Turkan Khatun with a façade adorned with uncommonly asymmetrical carved geometric designs.

Look out also for the restored Khan as-Sultan, which is a 14th-century caravanserai (travellers' inn and stables) at the top end of Bab as-Silsila St. A discreet entrance just up from the large 'Gali' sign leads into a courtyard surrounded by workshops, and from a staircase tucked in the left-hand corner as you enter you can climb up to the Old City rooftops.

Learn more from the Blog entry of Emily, Michael and Andrew Davis at

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beit Guvrin-Maresh National Park

Marilyn and I visited Beit Gurvin-Meresha National Park (AKA Eleutheropolis and Tel Sandahannah), today in preparation our guests to participate in Dig For A Day. We met with Asaf Stern who works in the program part time, Arava Alon who is a regular staff person in the program 054 314-5700 and Asaf's father the head of the program Dr. Ian Stern an archeologist.

There are basically three major sections to visit in the park" 1.) the Sidonian Cave near the information center; 2. the Bell Caves near the entrance to the park and 3. Amphitheater with Crusader church net store (before the main entrance of the park in back of the gas station.)

[From the Park Brochure..]

The national park has an area of 1,235 acres. The site is in the basin of the Guvrin Stream at the point of transition from the lower to the higher shephela at an altitude of 820-1,150 feet above sea level. The site was an ancient crossroads from the coastal plain to the Judean Hills and north to south through the shephela.

The bedrock here is limestone (kirton) tens of feet thick. Above it is a hardened cap of harder limestone called nari 5-10 feet thick. The nari had to be removed via small holes to get to the softer kirton. The quarrying of the kirton resulted in the Bell Caves. The quarried rock was cut into building stones. The follow spaces left behind were used as industrial installations, water reservoirs, storerooms, to keep cattle or beasts of burden and as burial caves.

Archeological Research

History of Excavations:

1900: Fredrick Jones Bliss (1859-1937) and Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister (1870–1950) excavated at Maresha for British Palestine Exploration Fund.

1902: Thiersch and Peters (Sidonian Burials)

1969-75 Ben Arieh (survey)

1989-onward Amos Kloner (Israel Antiquity Authorities)

Chronicles of Maresha

Maresha is mentioned among cities of Judea noted in Joshua 15:44 and as one of the cities fortified by King Rehoboam against the incursion of the Babylonians into his Kingdom (Chronicles 2 11: 5-8) and Chronicles 2 14:8-10.

During the Persian Period following the destruction of the 1st Temple in 586 BCE, Maresha and all of southern Judea was settled by Edonmites who came from the northeast. At the end of that period in the 4th Century BCE, the place was inhabited by Sidonians (from the city of Sidon near Tyre) and even Greeks bringing the Hellenistic culture with them. Egyptians and Jews also settled in the area at the same time. Thus Maresha became a Hellenistic city. During this period the lower city was built and many caves were hewn.

The Hasmonean King John Hycanus I in 113 BCE conquered Maresha and converted the residents of the city and the region to Judaism. The city became desolate ruins. It was briefly sparsely populate but destroyed by the Parthian invasion in 40 BCE.

Chronicles of Beit Guvrin

Beit Guvrin replaced Maresha as the most important settlement in the area. It is mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius in 68 CE as one of the cities conquered by the Roman General Vespasias. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, it continued to exist as a crowded Jewish settlement until the Bar-Kochva Revolt 132-35 CE.

In 200 CE the Emperor Septimus Severus changed Beit Gurvin's name to Eleutheropolis ("City of the free") and granted it municipal status.

During the Byzantine period, Beit Gurvin was an important Christian town with a number of Churches.

During the early Muslim period, most of the caves were dug.

It became an important Crusader town. The early Byzantine St. Anne's Church was rebuilt in 1136 CE.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Friday Day One
- The Old City of Jerusalem on Sabbath Eve

8:30 AM Arrive at Jerusalem International YMCA 3 Arches Hotel, King David St. (across from King David Hotel).

9:00 Drive up to Mt. of Olives observation point.

Enjoy and learn to identify the significant sites of the Old City of Jerusalem looking west.

Walk down the Pilgrim’s Path walking in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to the Last Supper.

Visit the Franciscan Dominus Flavit Chapel on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of All Nations.

Drive to Zion Gate and visit the Room of the Last Supper and enter into the Old City at the Armenian Quarter. Visit the Jewish Quarter and the Cardo (the heart of the Roman/Byzantine city)

Walk down to the Western (Wailing) Wall.

12:30 Visit the Davidson Center Archaeological Park (admission fee 30 NIS) (Closes at 14:00)

15:00 Friday Procession- from Chapel of the Flagellation on Via Dolorosa via the Muslim Quarter into the Christian Quarter to explore the Holy Sepulchre we will plan to walk with the Franciscan monks on this route.

Check into the 3 Arches Hotel – Jerusalem International YMCA (across from King David Hotel) (02) 569-2692

Shabbat Dinner

Overnight Jerusalem

Saturday Day Two - The Dead Sea Adventure

8:00 AM Depart YMCA Hotel on way to Dead Sea Adventure

Visit the fascinating fortress at Masada (Entrance Fee 49 NIS includes cable car) Museum recommended (20 NIS) (08) 658-4207/8

14:00 PM Take a walk in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve (Entrance fee 27 NIS) 08-658-4285

15:00 Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found hidden in caves 02-994-2235 21 NIS

16;00 Dead Sea “swimming” Kalia Beach (02)994-2391

Return to the hotel…Dinner TBA number of options

8:30 PM attend the Tower of David Sound and Light Show (admission 75 NIS) (02) 626-5333

Overnight in 3 Arches Hotel Jerusalem International YMCA Jerusalem

Sunday Day Three - Exploring more of Jerusalem and its history

7:00 AM Depart Hotel for Tour of the Temple Mount (Should be in line by 7:30 AM)

Optional – Sunday morning church service if desired

8:30 AM Drive to and visit Yad Vashem the Israel Holocaust Museum. (02) 644-3400

11:00 AM: Drive to the Israel Museum – visit the Second Temple Model, the Shrine of the Book that stores the Dead Sea Scrolls and the newly renovated archeological exhibit. (Admission 49 NIS) (02) 670-8811 (open 10-17; Tuesday 16-21)

3:00 PM Driving tour of view points around Jerusalem with a stop at the grave of Oskar Schindler (note that the gate to the cemetery is often locked). To get to it, walk about 300 yards downhill from the Zion Gate until you come to a small parking lot, across the road from which are two unmarked gates. Walk through the right gate and into the cemetery, and then down two levels to find it near the center of the third (the lowest) level. The stones on top may help you find it.

Dinner and early evening free time – program will be scheduled depending on interest.

9:10 PM Western Wall Tunnel Tour (Scheduled and booked)

Overnight 3 Arches Hotel Jerusalem

Monday Day Four – Going up to the Sea of Galilee

8:00 AM Check out of the Hotel (May leave extra bags in storage)

Drive to Jericho border crossing and meet your guide for tour. 10:00 (pending suitable guide)

Drive to Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret)

1:00 PM Check in at Rimonim Galei Kinneret Hotel (04) 672-8888 [Mark and Marilyn will stay at the Peniel Hotel nearby] Salah (057) 223-1293

Visit the major sites on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee, Tabghe (Fish and Loaves) (8:30-17), Capernaum (home of Jesus) (8:30-16:00) 04-679-3865, Mount of Beatitudes (8:30-12,-14:30-17:00) Peter’s Primacy (8-12;14-17).

Evening walk on the Tiberias Promenade

Overnight Tiberias

Tuesday Day Five - Exploring the Golan Heights

8:00 AM Depart Hotel

View ancient “Jesus Boat” in the Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginossar.
(Admission fee 25 NIS)

Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (054) 686-4247 (Daniel Carmel)

Drive up to the Golan Heights stop at Peace Viewpoint

Visit Gamla Nature Reserve The Masada of the North and Vulture Reserve
04-682-2285 8 A.M.–16 P.M 27 NIS

Look over the Valley of Tears site of major tank battle of Yom Kippur War

Overnight Tiberias

Wednesday Day Six – Exploring Northern Israel

8:30 AM Check out and depart hotel

Visit the Holy City of Safed- Roman Citadel, Synagogues and Artist Quarter
Drive to and visit Nazareth and visit the Church of the Annunciation and Old City

Overnight Nazareth Golden Crown Hotel 04-650-8000, 1-800-600-601 | Fax 04-601-6007

Thursday Day Seven – Antiquities from Megiddo and Caesarea to Ashkelon

8:00 AM Check out and depart hotel

Visit Megiddo Archaeological Site (8 A.M– 4 P.M) (04) 659-0316 27 NIS

Visit Caesarea Maritima Archaeological Site (8 A.M– 16 P.M) (04) 626-7080 38 NIS

Visit Ashkelon Archaeological Site (8 A.M.–22 P.M) Entrance fee 27 NIS

Check in to Holiday Inn Ashkelon 08-6748888

Overnight Ashkelon (Move clocks forward 1 hour for Daylight Savings Time at 2 AM)

Friday Day Eight – Drive to Jerusalem stopping at the Beit Guvrin Archeological Site

9:30 AM Dig for a Day archeological experience at Beit Gurvrin (Hadas (02) 586-2011

Check into the 3 Arches Hotel at Jerusalem YMCA

13:30-15:30 PM Bethlehem Tour Guide with Elias Ghareeb (052) 237-3317 (059) 967-4991

Jerusalem will be closing down for the Jewish Sabbath starting at sun down. We will plan the afternoon and evening given these constraints and your interests. A walk around west Jerusalem neighborhoods and visit to the Mahane Yehuda open air shuk should be fun.

Overnight Jerusalem

Saturday Day 9 - Final Day of Adventures in and Around Jerusalem

10 AM Jerusalem History Museum – Tower of David

Depart for Airport 7:30 PM

We will plan this day, remembering it is the Sabbath in Jerusalem. We will fill in any items that you would like to do at the last minute. The Jerusalem Historical Museum at David’s Tower just inside the Old City is open 10AM – 2 PM. The Old City will be open…perhaps we might consider the Wall Walk around the Old City.

The othe option could be Herodion National Park (Open on Saturday) 050-623-5821 (at site); 057-776-2251; 057-776-1143 27 NIS 8:00-16:00 (winter)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Early Christian Pilgrims to the Holy Land

Early Christian Pilgrims to the Holy Land

It all starts with Saint Helena (Latin: Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta) also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople (ca. 246/50 – 18 August 330) was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I. She is traditionally credited with finding the relics of the True Cross, with which she is invariably represented in Christian iconography and the locations of many of the sites of Jesus' life.

Anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux 333-34 AD
"the Bordeaux itinerary", also known as the Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum, "the Jerusalem inventory") is the oldest known Christian itinerarium, written by an anonymous pilgrim from Burdigala (present-day Bordeaux).[1] It tells of the writer's journey to the Holy Land in 333 - 334,[2] by land through northern Italy and the Danube valley to Constantinople, then through Asia Minor and Syria to Jerusalem, and then back by way of Macedonia, Otranto, Rome, and Milan. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The report of his journey outside Palestine is little more than a dry enumeration of the cities through which he passed, and of the places where he stopped or changed horses, with their respective distances. For the Holy Land he also briefly notes the important events which he believes to be connected with the various places. In this he falls into some strange blunders, as when, for instance, he places the Transfiguration on Mount Olivet. Such errors, however, are also found in subsequent writers. His description of Jerusalem, though short, contains information of great value for the topography of the city.

Another reader, Jaś Elsner, notes that, a brief twenty-one years after Constantine legalised Christianity, "the Holy Land to which the pilgrim went had to be entirely reinvented in those years, since its main site— ancient Jerusalem— had been sacked under the Emperor Hadrian and refounded as Aelia Capitolina". Elsner found to his surprise "how swiftly a Christian author was willing implicitly to re-arrange and redefine deeply entrenched institutional norms, while none the less writing on an entirely traditional model," the established Greco-Roman genres of travel writing.[3]

Egeria (AKA St. Sylvia) 381-84
St. Paula and her virgin daughter Eustochium 404
Archdeacon Theodosius 518–520
Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza 570

Bishop Arculf 670
He was shipwrecked on the shore of Iona, Scotland on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was hospitably received by Adamnan, the abbot of the island monastery of Iona from 679 to 704, to whom he gave a detailed narrative of his travels, from which Adamnan, with aid from some further sources, was able to produce a descriptive work in three books, dealing with Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and other places in Palestine, and briefly with Alexandria and Constantinople, called De Locis Sanctis ("Concerning the sacred places"). Many details about Arculf's journeys can be inferred from this text.

St. Willibald itinerary manuscript Hodoeporicon 760

Egeria - the woman pilgrim to the Holy land 381-84

Most of us would feel privileged if we could get a week or two in the Biblical locations. Imagine what it would be like if you could take three years tracing your Christian and Biblical roots. That is exactly what a mysterious lady did long ago (381 -384) and she was wise enough to keep a diary of her travels. And she would be happy to know that we are reading her notes, especially since they were lost for hundreds of years.

Meet Egeria (a.k.a. Etheria)
The lady who left us the narrative of her pilgrimage was named Egeria, and her journey took place around the end of the fourth century. A native of Spain, Egeria spent three years traveling to Egypt, Israel and Syria, and she wrote an account of her travels for her sisters back home. In 1884 a partial manuscript of her narrative was found in the library of the Brotherhood of St. Mary in Arezzo, Italy. The eleventh century manuscript had been copied by monks at the monastery of Monte Cassino.

Who Was This

Since her travel narrative tells little about herself, exactly who Egeria was is not clear, but she must have been a lady of spunk and adventure to even make such a trip. Much of her time would have been spent in travel to and from the East. Once in Constantinople, it would have taken her eight more weeks to reach Jerusalem, traveling 21 miles a day over 1200 miles. Egeria also must have been a lady of some leisure and wealth to have spent three years traveling in the East. She may have been a nun and wrote her narrative for her fellow-nuns back in Spain. Possibly she had some connections with the imperial court at Constantinople. Emperor Theodosius the Great was from Spain. Though no mention is made of Egeria in the surviving court records, the very fact that she arrived in Constantinople about the same time as the Spanish Theodosius suggests some connection. Theodosius' wife Aelia Flacilla and his niece Serena were staunch Christians and implacable foes of paganism. What relationship, if any, Egeria might have had with these devout ladies is unknown.

Studying Scripture on Location

The surviving manuscripts do not have the beginning of Egeria's account. What we do have begins at Mt. Sinai, where Egeria went to see all she could that might relate to the Exodus. Everywhere she went Egeria found guides, monks, and religious leaders who would show her the sites, then she would read the Scriptures focusing on where she was and the Biblical significance of the place. Implicit in all her pilgrimage was a desire to deepen her understanding of the Scriptures by seeing the very places where Biblical events occurred. Her description of the places visited is always subordinate to the truth of Scripture itself. At Sinai she climbed to the top of the mountain where the Glory of God had shown. Resident monks showed her where it was thought the golden calf had stood as well as the burning bush, whose roots were still well established!

After a stay in Jerusalem, Egeria made other journeys to Biblical sites -- to Mt. Nebo where Moses died (in modern Jordan), and Harran, where Job's tomb and Abraham's house could still be seen (in modern Turkey). Egeria traveled the main caravan and trade routes. At times Roman soldiers provided an escort. Faithful monks provided hospitality and guidance along the way, continuing a tradition of hospitality dating from the earliest days of the church.

The most interesting portion of Egeria's narrative, however, is her account of the worship practices of the Jerusalem Christians. At least six churches in Jerusalem were all established on places associated with major events in the life of Christ.

Daily and Sunday services at the churches focused on the particular importance of each site in Jesus' life, but the close proximity of all the churches soon led to a seasonal, annual series of celebrations, with each church playing a specific part in the yearly liturgy. Egeria described this pattern of worship in detail.

What made worship at the Jerusalem churches so unique was that the churches were at the geographical locations where the most important events of Jesus' life, and in all of human history, had occurred. A pattern of retracing, reliving, and re-enacting the last week of Jesus' life naturally grew up in association with these churches. Large crowds from throughout Jerusalem, as well as pilgrims from elsewhere, gathered to participate.

In addition to the regular daily services at all the Jerusalem churches, additional times of prayers, hymns, and Scripture reading were held during Holy Week, or the Great Week as the Jerusalemites called it, to remember the events of Christ's last week on earth. On Tuesday the bishop led the people to the Eleona Church on the Mount of Olives and read to them Jesus' teachings to His disciples from Matthew 23-24. On Wednesday evening, a priest read the passage where Judas Iscariot went to the Jews to set a price for his betrayal of the Lord. The people moaned and groaned, and many were moved to tears. On Thursday, special services were again held at the Mount of Olives churches, and then the bishop and people went to Gethsemane. After a prayer and hymn, the Scripture describing the Lord«s agony in the Garden was read. Egeria noted that no one failed to be a part of the remaining ceremonies, tired though they might be from their long vigils and fasting. In the early hours of Friday they made their way back to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the bishop read the Gospel accounts of Jesus before Pilate. Before returning briefly to their homes, the people went to Mount Zion to pray at the pillar in Caiaphas' house where Jesus was whipped.

Friday was the most solemn day of the Great Week in Jerusalem. In the morning the wood of the cross Queen Helena had found was brought out for reverence. For hours pilgrims filed by to see the holy relic. But for Egeria, the three-hour service that began at noon was most meaningful. Nothing was done during all of that time except the reading from the Scriptures. And so, from the sixth to the ninth hour (12-3 p.m.), passages from Scripture are continuously read and hymns are sung, to show the people that whatever the prophets had said would come to pass concerning the passion of the Lord can be shown, both through the Gospels and the writings of the apostles, to have taken place. And so, during these three hours, all the people are taught that nothing happened which was not prophesied, and that nothing was prophesied which was not completely fulfilled.

Every one, young and old, was moved to tears with the realization that the Lord suffered for them.

In Jerusalem Egeria found a greater emphasis on the preaching of Scripture than she had known in her home church. The people were always learning about the Bible and the love of God. As they walked to and from the various holy sites and heard the Scriptures read, they were able to involve themselves in the historical life of Jesus. As pilgrims like Egeria came to the Holy Land, more and more Christians became familiar with the annual cycle of feasts commemorating the life of Jesus that had grown up there. Many churches elsewhere had known nothing like the lessons from Scripture regularly connected with the feasts, but gradually these became part of the liturgy and worship of other churches. The Christian year, with its annual celebrations of all aspects of Jesus' life, soon became the established worship pattern of the church. At a time when few people had a copy of the Scriptures themselves, this annual cycle of Scripture reading connected with the life of Christ was an important way of confirming the Christians in their faith. In Egeria's account of her pilgrimage, we have a detailed account of worship in Jerusalem during the early centuries of the church, a pattern of worship that continues to influence the Church down to our own day.

Baptism Not to Be Taken Lightly
Part of Egeria's account has to do with baptism at Easter in Jerusalem. Here is a portion of Egeria's description of what happened. As you can see, careful inquiry was made into the life and character of the candidate before final acceptance for baptism was given:

I must also describe how those who are to be baptized at Easter are instructed. Whoever gives his name does so the day before Lent . . . and this is before those eight weeks during which, as I have said, Lent is observed here . . . on the first day of Lent...a throne is set up for the bishop in the center of the major church, the Martyrium. The priests sit on stools on both sides, and all the clergy stand around. One by one the candidates are led forward in such a way that the men come with their godfathers and the women with their godmothers. Then the bishop questions individually the neighbors of the one who has come up, inquiring: "Does he lead a good life? Does he obey his parents? Is he a drunkard or a liar?" And he seeks out in the man other vices which are more serious. If the person proves to be guiltless in all these matters . . . the bishop . . . notes down the man's name with his own hand. If, however, he is accused of anything, the bishop orders him to go out and says: "Let him amend his life, and when he has done so let him then approach the baptismal font." He makes the same inquiry of both men and women. If, however, someone is a stranger, he cannot easily receive baptism, unless he has witnesses who know him.

Nazareth - Tourist Sites Walks and more...


Observation Points in the city

Mt. of Precipice Lookout Point (off of Hwy 60 just before entering Nazareth)

This is one of the most beautiful observation points in the Galilee area. Kdumim Mountain, also known as Mt. of Precipice, has a sheer straight inclination and it provides a great view of Nazareth, the Gillad Mountains in Jordan Valley, Tabor Mountain, the Carmel Mountains and Jezreel Valley. According to the Christian tradition, this is the sacred mountain from which the people of Nazareth tried to push Jesus to the death, but he jumped and disappeared, hence is the name of the mountain. The Jewish National Fund placed stone benches there, along with a short walking lane adapted for wheelchairs as well, and an organized parking space. On the mountain’s western inclinations you can find the remains of a Byzantine church and opposite to it there’s a cave, where pre-historical findings were revealed, and which was used as a residency place for the prehistoric man.
The Mountain is located at the city’s entrance, when coming from Afula.

The Peaks’ Promenade

Along the Nabi Sa’in Mountain there’s a promenade observing to the north, over the lower Galilee ridge: Alonim Hill, Shefaram, Eshcol site, the Carmel Mountains and the upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Hermon mountains. A short walk along the promenade would take us to several sacred sites as well as small, unique hotels. The first stop would be the Salesian Church (Jesus the adolescent), where you can also park. This is a large fortress-like site, combining a church, a covenant and a vocational school. The impressive church was built according to a French style and her great acoustics makes it a wonderful place for concerts.

Continuing along the promenade would bring us to Nabi Sa’in Mosque, where a Muslim Saint is buried. We take the first right turn to the Saint Gabriel Hotel, providing a wonderful observation point over the old city. Lastly we would go back to the promenade and arrive to the plaza where we turn right and reach the lovely Saint Margaret Inn. This is a boutique hotel, with a special Gothic-European atmosphere, resides in an old stone building which used to be a convent. We can finish the tour at the hotel’s coffee shop and enjoy the great Nazareth view seen from the balcony.

Basilica of the Annunciation
Admission to the Basilica is free.
Open Hours:
Winter - Monday to Saturday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Summer - Saturday to Sunday, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Tel. 04-6572501
Note: Please dress modestly and speak softly.
The Catholic Church of Annunciation, also known as the Basilica of the Annunciation, is the most impressive and spectacular site in the city ion considered as one of the most holy churches for Christianity. The church, an outstanding building in the center of town, is built where it’s believed was the house of Joseph and Virgin Mary, parents of Jesus.
On the lower level is the most holy place – Mary’s cave, the cave in which, according to the Catholic-Christian tradition, Mary was visited by Archangel Gabriel and told her she is destined to carry the Messiah in her womb.
The first church was built there back in 427 A.D, and a few others were built and destroyed since. In the current building which was established on 1969, there are still remains of the previous churches and it is one of the biggest, most impressive churches in the Middle East.
The breathtaking Basilica is 59.5 Meters high and shows colorful mosaics pictures of the Holy Family. The mosaics were made by Christian communities from all over the world, and every art work reflects the national character of the country that sent it.
The History and Architecture of the Church
The first church was establishes during the Byzantine times, probably around the year of 427. it was built by Jerusalem’s Deacon (one of the 3 positions in the Christian clergy, next to the priest and the bishop), who was called Conon, as can be learned from the writing “Conon” on the mosaic floor, close to the cave.
The church was built as a large central hall, with a small monastery to the south. Few steps led to the holy cave that was almost completely separated from the church itself. In the year 670, Arculpus was speaking of 2 churches in Nazareth: Church of Joseph and The Church of Annunciation. The church was in use for about 700 years, during which several repairs were made.
After Palestina-Israel was conquered by the Muslims on 638, the Muslims demanded large payments from the Christians in order to permit the churches’ existence. However, its condition was getting worse until it was almost completely destroyed by the beginning of the Crusader’s Times around the 11th century.
When the Crusaders arrived to Nazareth, they found the church completely destroyed. Tancred, Prince of Galilee, has rebuilt the church and established there a marvelous, impressively large Basilica. The remains of this Basilica are integrated now into the new church which was built over Tancred’s church. This time, the site of Annunciation was located inside the church where stairs were leading directly to it. A small altar was built above.
its remains still exist today. It seems like the Crusader-era Church was never complete, especially when it comes to the artistic objects – five Romanic crowns found around the church can indicate on that.
Based on pilgrims’ descriptions we learn how magnificent the church was. The remains of the church show that it had at least 64 crowns. Several excavations exposed the church’s foundations: the Northern wall (integrated in the current church), as well as different artistic remains.
However, the Crusader-era church didn’t last for too long and was destroyed in 1263 by the Mamluk Sultan Baibers. The Christians’ source of pride became a symbol of disgrace. The place was deserted for many years in spite of the Franciscans’ efforts to settle down there, efforts that have failed. They encountered a hostile Muslim community and a government who refused to permit their presence in the area.
Eventually, around 1620, in the beginning of the Ottoman era, the Franciscans were allowed to return by the Druze Emir Fakr ad-Din. They have settled in Nazareth, close to the Church of Annunciation and were possession over the cave and the Basilicas’ remains from which they have built a modest monastery. Ever since then, the place is under to authority of the Franciscan Custody, although from time to time they were forced to abandon the place by the Muslims. However, they have always returned. In 1935 Emir Fakr ad-Din was executed and the Damascus Pasha revenged those who enjoyed his protection.
The Nazareth Franciscans were arrested for 6 weeks and released only after paying a large amount of money. In 1938 they had to leave again due to harassments of the Bedouins, but returned 3 years later. Pilgrims who visited Nazareth in 1644 has indicated that the area of the Annunciation Cave was still destroyed.
The Franciscans has managed to rebuild the church only around 1730, after Dhaher al-Omar, the Galilee governor, has permitted them to do so. They were only given 6 months for the mission – the time period requires for a Muslim to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and return.
As a result, the new church was modest and meant to provide immediate needs only, not reflecting its true Christians meaning. The church was small and consisted of a central hall and 2 secondary wings. The altar was built above the cave. Wide steps led down to the cave itself, with a hallway at the end called The Angel’s Chapel and 2 altars – one for Joachim and Anna and the other for Archangel Gabriel.
This room was used as a gateway for the Chapel. The Altar of Annunciation was in the center of the cave, with another Altar dedicated to St. Joseph in the back. In 1877 the church was renovated and expanded, and the façade was rebuilt. In 1955 the current Church of Annunciation was built and the old one was destroyed. The monastery and Franciscan School were built next to it in 1930.
The Church Today
The Catholic Church of Annunciation is one of the biggest, most magnificent one in the Middle East today. It was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio, built by Solel Boneh and established in 1969. The church has two stories which provide enough space for a large amount of worshipers as well as preservation of the holy cave and remains of the previous churches. The church is a powerful, monumental building inducing a sense of eternity.
The cave is located in the center of the lower floor. This area is slightly dark which maintains the mysterious atmosphere around the wonder of the Annunciation. This level is also where the remains of previous churches are preserved. The stone wall along the church and behind the cave has remained from the Crusader-era church from the 12th century. Excavations has revealed some Crusader-era capitols - some of the most beautiful pieces of art from those times, which are presented in the museum located under the plaza outside of the higher level.
The lower level presents the architectural fortitude required for building this church. Above, the marvelous lily dome is a symbol to Virgin Mary’s purity. On the marble floor you can find the names of the popes, and the large mosaic painting of the Italian painter Salvador Puma, describing Jesus, Virgin Mary and St. Peter, is located on front.
On the church walls, as well as in its yard, is presented an exhibition of mosaic paintings. Each painting was given by a different country and is reflecting the national motives of the country it was made at.
Source – Nazareth and its sites, Schieller, Eli (Editor), Ariel, 1982.

St. Joseph's Church
Free Entrance
Open Hours:
Winter - Monday to Saturday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Summer - Saturday to Sunday, 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
tel: 04-6572501
Note: Please dress modestly and speak softly.
The St. Joseph church is built where, according to tradition, used to be the carpentry workshop of Joseph, father of Jesus. Some of the traditions also claim this was Joseph's house.
This Franciscan church was established in 1914 over the ruins of more ancient churches and is located in the Basilica of Annunciation area. In the crypt (the lower level of the church) there’s an ancient water pit, mosaics, caves and barns from ancient Nazareth that has survived since the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. One of the cave, according to tradition, was used as Joseph's workshop.
The church also reflects the Jewish roots of Christianity: in the past, the Christian prayers has accepted the Jewish bathe commandment and built ritual baths in the church to do so.
Description of the Church
The church is built in a Neo Romanski style, based on the foundations of the ancient Crusader church. It has 3 long halls ending with 3 enceintes on the east, built over Crusaders’ remains. The stairs are leading to the lower floor, where there’s crypt holding archeological remains from the Nazareth village times as well as the cave used as Joseph's workshop.
In 1950 the apses were decorated by an Italian artist. The main picture shows the holy family and an additional one is of Joseph only. Around the podium there’s an additional picture of the holy family. The windows decorations tell the story of the place as well.
History of the Church
The Crusaders built this church on the 12th century over earlier remains of another church from the Byzantine Times. This church was not commemorating the house of Joseph. this was probably a later tradition.
The Crusader Church was built in a style that was common in France in the 12th century: it had 3 arched enceintes and was divided to one big hall and 2 wings in a cross shape. The crypt on the lower level of the church was not changed during Crusader time.
After the Arabic occupation in the 13th century, the place was left in ruins for hundreds of years. In 1754 it was purchased by the Franciscans and they have built a chapel for St. Joseph. Later on, the Franciscans have managed to purchase the area surrounding the church as well. In 1908, archeological excavations were done there by Father Prof. Veo, who discovered the remains of the Byzantine Church from the 5th or 6th century.
He published his findings in the book "Nazareth and its Two Entrances", written in French. The foundations for building the church on this specific spot was the cave in the crypt, which was used as a residency cave on earlier times.

Greek Orthodox Announciation Church
Free Entrance
Open Hours:
Monday to Saturday, 7:00 -17.00
Tel: 04-6576437
Note: Please dress modestly and speak softly.
It is also known as St. Gabriel Church and Mary's Well Church.
This small church, with its fortress like appearance, is one of the most beautiful and unique ones in Israel. Following the Easter Christian tradition, this church has many wall paintings, statues and chandeliers. The sound of water sprouting out of the fountain inside, as well as its warm, bold colors, create a warmth, spiritual feeling.
This church is the most sacred place for the Greek-Orthodox community in Nazareth, and is built where, according to an ancient tradition, was the annunciation to Virgin Mary from Archangel Gabriel as she came by to draw water from the spring. The church was established during Crusader-Era times in the 12th century, shortly after the Crusaders’ occupation, then was destroyed during the Mamluk Era times by the Mamluk Sultan Baibers in the 13th century, and re-built during the Ottoman Era times in 1750.
History of the church
The church is built where, according to an ancient tradition followed by the Greeks and the Orthodox, Archangel Gabriel told Virgin Mary that she is about to conceive by the holy spirit and give birth to the son of god. This happened as Mary went down to draw water from the spring. The origin of this tradition is a late external literature called "Proto Evanglion for Jacob" (written, according to tradition, by St. James). Tradition also tells about Jesus the kid who followed his mother to this spring in order to draw water as well.
The church was established in the Crusaders-Era times, in the beginning of the 12th century, shortly after the Crusader occupation. Around the cave in the church you can still find remains of the Crusaders. During the Mamluk Era, in 1263, it was destroyed by Sultan Baibers along with the rest of the Christian churches in Nazareth.
Between the years of 1628-1634, the spring was in possession of the Franciscans, who built an arched room above it. However, on 1749 the Greek-Orthodox has received a charter from Daher El-Omar, allowing them to rebuild the church, and they have been in possession of the place ever since. In 1750 they have built the Greek-Orthodox church and called the "The Church of Annunciation”.
Description of the church
The church is divided to 2: the central prayer structure from the 18th century, and the more ancient, well preserved part from the 12th century, led to by an arched passageway padded with Ottoman tiles.
The crypt includes an elevated podium, and behind it is the fountain drawing water from the spring above the church, through the church itself to the water trough located on Mary's Plaza, also known as "Mary's Well”. The walls have an Arabic writing saying: "The annunciation to Virgin Mary nearby the spring”. An elevated water pit is located where the apsis starts, for the convenience of the pilgrims drawing the holy water from here. Above the altar you can see a picture dedicated to the annunciation.
The church is built in a typical Greek-Orthodox Galilee church shape: a massive building reminding some kind of a fortress. It's divided to a hall and 2 wings, with a square bells' tower above it. The altar was hidden by a decorated wooden partition (iconostasis) given as a gift to the church by a rich Greek merchant in 1767.
The partition is decorated with embossments and icons of mazy animals and other typical Greek iconography reminding the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and in Marsava monetary in the Judea desert
Behind the iconostasis, next to the altar, there are many ancient statues, though their origin and date are unclear. Some of them were given to the church by Russian pilgrims who were visiting many times in the 19th and 20th century.
The Moscowbiya, the Russian pilgrims' center, is located next to the church. The church was re-decorated in 1977-8 by Romanian artists, after previous decorations didn’t last the damages of time. The decorations are describing, among other things, the Annunciation given to Virgin Mary by Archangel Gabriel near the spring.
The church’s area includes a hall belongs to the Orthodox society in the city. This hall is used as a club, as a room for consoling the bereaved and other gatherings of the community. The hall was built thanks to a donation given from Baddia al-Nuss and is called after his father, Bishara al-nuss.

The Synagogue Church
Free Entrance
Open Hours:
Monday to Saturday, 8:00 -12.00 - 14.00-17.00
tel: 04-6568488
Note: Please dress modestly and speak softly.
The Arabs call it"Madrasset El-Massiach" (The Messiah Academy).
In the heart of the Market, between the stores, a small yard is taking us to a special church with a sign above its crossbar: The Synagogue. The unique structure, about 1.5 meters underground, has an arched shape with benches along the walls, a podium and an altar.
According to Christian tradition, this is where Jesus studied and prayed. In addition, this is where he carried his famous sermon on Saturday (Matthew 13, Mark 6, Luke 4), where he declared himself as the Messiah to his Jewish village members. This sermon infuriated the prayers and the dragged him to the Mt. of Precipice planning to push him downhill, but he jumped and disappeared.

During Byzantine Times, Christian believers have started attending the place, and on Medieval Times the synagogue was turned into a church and the Saturday Sermon story was ascribed to it. The Synagogue Church belongs to the Greek-Catholic community. Next to the historical Synagogue Church, a new church was built on 1887 (The New Synagogue Church), decorated with impressive wall paintings of Jesus as a baby, an adolescent and as a king which add a special picturesque, sacred atmosphere.
It seems like attributing this synagogue to the one where Jesus was praying is a late tradition, which started after the Byzantine Times, since all sacred Jewish places were destroyed during the Big Insurrection (67 A.D.), and most ancient Galilee synagogues are from the 3rd to 6th century.
Jesus Synagogue was supposed to be inside the ancient Nazareth village according to the writings as well, while this building is outside of the historical village borders. Years later, the building was destroyed and served as a shed. Only in the 18th century, when the Christians were treated better thanks to the Galilee Governor Daher El Omar, the Franciscans have started its renovation. The have passed it to the responsibility of the Greek-Orthodox who finished the renovation works and built there a chapel.

Mary’s Well (The Spring Plaza)
oppening hours: open all week - days & night
tel: 04-6011072
An archeological, holly site.
Near-by sites include the Orthodox Church of Annunciation and the Orthodox Church of Annunciation Museum.

Mary's Well (or Mary's Spring) was the city's main source of water. Some believe that this is where Mary used to bathe Jesus and wash his clothes, and that Jesus himself would come down to the pool and fetch water for his mother.

The plaza and the well were renovated and reconstructed for the millennium celebrations in 2000. Archeological excavations have uncovered the remains of tunnels and pools from different periods, and this is shown in an exhibition in the Meeting Hall of the City Council. The well's current shape is identical to the one in the pictures taken by the pilgrims in the nineteenth century.

The spring and its water are considered holy by both Muslims and Christians, and earlier generations attributed unusual healing properties to it. In the seventeenth century, bottles of water from Mary's Well were sent to France, and during the Middle Ages the Catholic Church granted forgiveness for sins to those who visited the site.

Mary’s Well History
The spring rises in a cave thirty meters north of the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Originally the public well was located next to the small pool that is now inside the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. But after the church was established, local people were barred from using the well and a replacement was built in the shape of a public water trough, to which the water was channeled from the church. The water was also used by farmers to irrigate their fields.

For centuries the public water trough was a gathering place for the city's residents and passers-by. Older residents recall it as being one of the most colorful places in Nazareth. Mary's Well is a site of religious, historical and cultural importance; the water trough and the large tree next to it have become the city's symbol and are used as the City Council's logo.

oppening hours: closed ( police station)
A large and impressive building located 50 meters west of Mary's Well. Established by the Russians in 1904 and based on the design of the templar architect Gottlieb Schumacher, the building was used as a hostel for Russian pilgrims that came to Nazareth. Today, the building houses Nazareth's police station and post office.

One of the reasons for the building's location is the nearby Orthodox Church of Annunciation, where Russian pilgrims prayed. The building was inaugurated in 1907 by Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, founder of “The Russian Praboslavian Society”. The building has two entrances, one for pedestrians, the other for carriages, and it includes a large, inner yard enclosed by striking facades.

The building seated about a thousand pilgrims and had a dining room, infirmary, pharmacy, school and a dormitory serving children from Russia and neighboring areas. The Moscowbiya Building symbolises the large influence that Russians had over the citizens of Nazareth, especially in education. Until recently you could still find Nazarenes who studied in the Moscowbiya and spoke fluent Russian.

Khan El-Basha
oppening hours : monday - saturday 7.30-15.00
entrance free
A public building with an historical significance. One of the most impressive Khans in Israel, waiting for renovation and preservation.

Khan is a Persian word, meaning an inn or motel. Khan el-Basha is the biggest, most impressive of the five khans built in Nazareth, and is named after Suleiman Basha, Nazareth's governor, who repaired the khan in 1814. The building, which is opposite the Basilica of the Annunciation, is used for offices these days but is scheduled for preservation.

Khans evolved during the Mamluk Era (1260-1516) thanks to the prosperity of trade between the East and the West. They were built along major roads, especially those between Damascus and Cairo, offering lodging for caravans and passers-by. When the Arab Empire started to fail at the end of the 11th century, roads were no longer secure and khans were used as safe havens. They also became collecting points for road tolls and part of the postal system of the Empire. Urban khans became commercial markets as well as providing storage room for merchandise and animals.

Khan el-Basha was built at the entrance to Nazareth. It consists of a large yard surrounded by domed rooms on three of its sides, while the fourth side is a curved colonnade. Originally, the khan had only one floor, but at the end of the nineteenth century an additional floor, with 10 accommodation rooms, was added. These rooms were used as a modern hotel named el-Hadges. An 1839 painting by the British oriental artist David Roberts shows the khan as the most impressive and prominent building of the city.

The khan is one of the assets of the White Mosque. Due to changes in methods of transport and the citizens' way of life, the khan lost its importance over the years, and parts were converted into workshops, storage houses and offices.
(Research by Sharrif Safadi)

Oppening hours : by appointment
tel : 04-6011072
This is a historic government building from the Ottoman era. Today it is empty but plans are that it will one day become the city museum; part of the renovation work is already complete.

The Seraya ("palace" in Turkish), one of the most important and impressive buildings in the city, was built in about 1740 by the famous ruler of the Galilee, Daher el-Omar, as his personal home and a government building from which he could safeguard the Jezreel Valley. The building also included stables and prison cells. The portico floor was added in the middle of the nineteenth century, and a renaissance style watch tower was added at the beginning of the twentieth century.

When the building was erected there were no mosques in Nazareth, so el-Omar allocated a prayer room for Muslims in the Seraya, until the White Mosque was completed in 1812. After el-Omar's rule, and until the British Mandate, the building was the official residence of the governor of Nazareth District. Later, the Seraya became the seat of the city's government. Nazareth City Council was located in the building until 1991.

Recommended walk through the Old City

Duration: 2-3 hours
This path is also known as the “Pilgrims Path” since it goes through the most holy Christian sites. This walk fits for all ages and covers the prettiest, holiest, most important historical sites. In case your time in the city is limited – this is the walk for you!

The walk begins at Mary’s Well (you can park in one of the many parking lots around). We will visit Mary’s Spring (El Sabil in Arabic) which was recently renovated. Immediately adjacent is the pleasant souvenir shop Cactus within which is the entrance to an Ancient Bath House. In front of it we can find the Old Bathhouse of Nazareth, where we would also visit. Today there’s a lovely store there, called “Cactus”. The Bathhouse visit entails payment and includes a guided tour and light refreshments. This Bathhouse was magnificently preserved and is dated all the way back to the Roman times, 2,000 years ago.

The next stop would be the nearby plaza where we visit the Greek-Orthodox Church, also known as the Orthodox Church of Annunciation and St. Gabriel Church. This is where, according to the Christian tradition, Archangel Gabriel appeared before Virgin Mary and announced her she would be carrying the Messiah in her womb.

After that we keep following the Pilgrim’s Path to the Nazareth City Hall and the Moscowbiya – a most impressive 100 years old building which was used as a hostel for the Russian Pilgrims. Today this building is used for the city’s Police station. Next we would go through 6098 St. to the Bishop Square. On the right side you can see the Greek-Orthodox Bishopric, a white building in the Greek style, facing picturesque houses, reminiscent of Venetian palazzos, which have recently been preserved and renovated. The house on the left is Writers’ House, an art institute. Then we keep walking along 6098 Street to Sebat Qa’war alley – Sebat is an architectonic arched building and Qa’war is the family to which this building belongs to. Then we reach the Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), the home of Tanous Qa’war - Nazareth’s first mayor in 1875. Today the building houses a museum re-creating life in the Galilee from the last century (entrance fee payable).

From Folklore House we would turn left to Street 6132 towards the vegetable market, and then left again to Street 6089 where we can visit Casa Palestina - a beautiful mansion that was used to store barley in 1810; the building’s history would be told by the owners. Inside you can find a coffee shop and a handicraft gallery (free entrance).

Leaving Casa Palestina, we would pass through an arched walkway leading to the Seraya building, the Ottoman rule center since 1735. This impressive, beautiful building is currently undergoing preservation work in order to convert is to a municipal museum about the city’s history.

Back to the vegetable market, and then to the White Mosque courtyard with its pencil-like tower, where we would ask for permission to come inside and learn about its ancient history and the messages of peace and friendship characterizing the mosque. After that we would walk along 6133 St. into the well-preserved and restored Old City market, stroll through lanes and alleys leading off to the right and left and eventually get to the magnificent Basilica of Annunciation which a visit to Nazareth is never complete without.

Allow yourself to enjoy the delicious fare served in one of the many restaurants, and share a sweet moment with the baklawa and kenafi in one of the famous Eastern Nazareth candy stands.

Hidden Churches and Monasteries
Duration: About 1.5 hours
This is a charming walk of a steep decline in front of the view. The walk starts at the impressive, fortress like Salesian Church (Jesus the adolescent) on the top of the western Nabi Sa’in ridge. From there we take a sheer stairway, and go through several special churches and monasteries which are not part of the common tourist courses. The end of the walk would bring us to the Market and the city center. Recommended for the adventure lovers and the quaint walkers!

First we get to the Salesian Church by car, where you can park and take a look over the entire old city. After seeing the breathtaking view we would have a short visit in the church dedicated to Jesus the adolescent. The impressive church, with its unique architecture, was inspired by the French architecture, and its wonderful acoustics makes it an ideal place for concerts. Close the school entrance, which belongs to the church, there’s a long stairway taking us all the way down to the old city. We would take the stairway to a narrow passageway, where the first monetary is the Sisters of the Basilian Order’s Convent, where nuns of Lebanese descent are living. This is a very small Lebanese convent, hiding in Nazareth old city.

A little further down the street, there’s an impressive building (which is usually close): This is the Mensa Christi Church (Jesus’ Table). This church found its inspiration at the Mensa Christi Church located on the Kinnereth coast. Both churches claim they own a large stone table on which Jesus and his students used to dine. Its ancient paintings were recreated by the Venetian Preservation School. The keys to the church are in the hand of a woman who maintains the place and lives on the other side of the street.

Normally people would knock on her door and ask for the keys, then live a symbolic donation when the visit is over. Next to the Mensa Christi there’s the big Old Maronite Church which was built in the 18th century. The Maronite community in Nazareth is rather small and has about 1,000 people. A new Maronite Church was recently built, but the community continues maintaining the old one. Inside the church you can learn a bit about another religious part of Nazareth.

The end of the passageway arrives to a beautiful square, where we turn right to 6150 St. all the way to the Anglican Church – an English country church, another interesting building hidden between the old city’s alleys. We take the Anglican Church stairs to 6167 St., leading to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. The convent yard is beautiful, and the basement contains interesting archeological findings, dated back to the Second Temple times.
Following the passageway we’d go through the market and then reach the impressive Basilica of Annunciation, which no visit to Nazareth is complete without. From there we go down to the noisy Paulus VI St. and get a cab back to where we parked the car.

Walk through the Market
Duration: about an hour
This walk goes through Nazareth’s famous market and is suitable in case you have a very short time and wish to enjoy the Old City’s atmosphere and walk through the varied market stores.

The Old Market of Nazareth is one of the most fascinating markets in Israel. As part of the Y 2,000 preparations the whole city was renovated, and so was the market. Its special charm is in the fact this is not the common tourist Market as we know it. It definitely maintains a lively, active merchant atmosphere, attracting customers from the city and its surroundings. Need examples? The entrance to El Basharra St. (The Annunciation St.) has a famous large group of the traditional candy stores. This is the right place for you to enjoy the famous hot Nazareth kenafi.

If we go through the Market’s main street, take a right at the end and then left, would take us to a small alley (6133) where you can still find craftsmen such as metal smiths for primus stove repairs. Later on, around what used to be the vegetables market, there are several smoking-bottle houses as well as the famous Nazareth Bride’s market, where wedding outfits are being sold (not wedding dresses, though).

The Nazareth Market also includes an important Christian site – The Synagogue Church. This is an old church from the Crusader-era times which, according to tradition, used to be the synagogue where Jesus used to pray. This church belongs to the Catholic-Greek community.

Night Walk Through Illuminated Sites
Duration: About 1.5 hours
This walk is very similar to the “Hidden Churches and Monasteries” walk, apart from the fact it takes place at night. Nazareth and its sites hold a special magic at night time: the sacred atmosphere and the illuminated monuments create a night walk that becomes an unforgettable experience.

Other than the famous Church of Annunciation, there are many illuminated sites in the city of Jesus Christ. Tareq Shihada, director of the Nazareth Cultural and Touristic Association, suggests on a night walk starting on St. Gabriel Church all the way to the old city:

Leaving St. Gabriel, which is an illuminated convent used as a motel, you go down to Saint Margaret, a pilgrims’ hostel illuminated as well. The gate takes you into a magical garden in which you can find a door leading to the rooms on the left, and then to the building’s balcony. From there you can see the marvelous view – The old city of Nazareth, Jezreel Valley and the Samaria Mountains beyond it.

Next stop would be the Salesian Church (Jesus the adolescent), beautifully illuminated. You can park on the road underneath and take the stairs next to the Blue House into the old city passageways. From this Vantage point you can see luminous monuments such as: the lighted Basilica of Annunciation, The White Mosque, The Synagogue Church, and The Greek-Catholic Church, built where according to tradition used to be the Nazareth synagogue on Jesus times. Further walking leads us to the Mensa Christi (Jesus’ Table Church). You can visit one of the painted ceiling houses and then continue to the Market’s alleys – the market may be closed, but is still lighted and provides a beautiful night walk.

This is where Tareq Shihada recommends on a little stop in one of the market’s coffee shops where you can have a drink, perhaps a smoking bottle, or maybe even a big dinner in of the restaurants around (Nazareth, by the way, is known to have a lively, interesting night life).

The Association provides several continuing options: walking along the Pilgrims Path while passing by the old city’s buildings to Mary’s Well and the Greek Orthodox Church (which is illuminated as well), a visit to the Ancient Bathhouse and finish in one of the coffee shops – restaurants around Mary’s Well; Continue walking through the lower part of the market all the way to the Basilica of Annunciation (where you can have a close look at the lighted church) and there go to the Al Rida restaurant or keep going to one of Nazareth’ famous candy stores; A night visit to the Nazareth Village (by appointment).

The Mount of Precipice
oppening Hours : oppen all the week - days & Nights
Email :
Mt. of Precipice, located in the entrance to the city (when coming from Afula), was identified in the Christian tradition as the mountain from which the Nazareth people were trying to push Jesus after he infuriated them with his sermon, declaring himself as the Messiah (Luke 4). The village people dragged Jesus to the mountain top, but ion the last moment he has managed to jump off the mountain and disappeared. The mountain was sanctified in an ancient era, and in the 8th century, 8 of the 12 priests in Nazareth were living on this mountain. On the mountain’s western side there are still remains of the Byzantine convent.
The Jewish National Fund has performed some development works there and provided an organized parking lot on the mountain top, from where you can take a paved lane, accessible for wheel chairs as well, to the magnificent observation point on top of the mountain.
The sheer sloped mountain, 397 meters high, provides one of the best, most beautiful observation points over Yizrael Valley and its surrounding mountains: The Carmel Mountains, The Gillad Mountains and the Tabor Mountain. On the way back you can take a different path overlooking the views. This path (easy though inaccessible for wheel chairs) goes through a small stoned structure, used as the forester's house during the British Mandate times.
The mountain's official name is Mount Kdumim, due to a cave found on this mountain (Kdumim Cave) with findings from The Prehistoric times. The cave is closed to visitors today. Many legends were attributed to this cave by the pilgrims. One of them says that the cave was opened up as a hiding place for Virgin Mary, or for Jesus, as he was about to be pushed from the mountain top.
A new road leading directly to the observation point is being paved these days.

The Ancient Bath House
opening hours : Monday - Saturday 9.00-19.00
by appointment
Tel : 04-6578539- 050-5384343
Email: Website:
An archeological site, a 2,000 years old Bath House.
Payment includes a guided tour and light refreshments.

In 1993, when Elias Shama and his Belgian wife Martina started their art and souvenir shop Cactus next to Mary's Well, they could not have imagined what would they find underneath the building. During renovation works they discovered a large and ancient bath-house, which experts have been dated to the Roman era and the time of Jesus. They have continued their excavations and can now show visitors an extensive and well-preserved archeological site.

Today there are guided tours of the Bath-House, including the underground heating tunnels (hippocaust), which are the most impressive in the Middle East. Elias can share with you his insights into the history of Nazareth and show you historical documents confirming that the Bath-House existed in ancient times. The guided tour includes light refreshments served in one of the halls of the Bath-House.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nazareth - Fauzi Azar Inn and more- three articles

YNET May 31 2007

Tali Heruti-Sover spent a weekend among the churches, restaurants and alleys
Tali Heruti-Sover

There are many good reasons to visit Nazareth, and recently another one has been added: “The Fauzi Azar Inn”- an ancient building that has been turned into a simple, pleasant guest house with a painted ceiling and a courtyard that invites relaxation.

In recent months the gates of a special and unique guesthouse have quietly opened. Fauzi Azar Inn is the name of the place located in the heart of the ancient city of Nazareth, and its owner is a blue-eyed young man with the surprising name, Maoz Inon.

We packed our bags and went to check out what the former kibbutznik was doing in Nazareth, and what exactly his place offered guests.

The car easily skipped over the Afula Road, swallowed the curves on the ascent to Nazareth, and slowly lumbered next to the dozen cars on the constantly jammed Paulus Street. We parked at the edge of the old city, according to the exact directions that Maoz gave us and we walked through its alleyways.

A single delicate sign pointed us to a large iron door that had a separate smaller iron door within. This opened and we experienced our first "Wow!": we discovered a large open courtyard whose shaded area was designed for colorful relaxation filled with cushions and mattresses. Families with children were reclining on these comfortable beddings. Everyone looked very satisfied.

A climb up the ancient stairs led us to the top floor. The main hall caused our second "Wow!": A giant painted ceiling extended five meters above our heads. The room was adorned with huge Oriental windows covered with wooden shutters that you can no longer find, from which you can look out over the red tiled roofs of Nazareth. In the background the sound of the muezzin constantly calling for prayers mixed with the slow chimes of the church bells. A pleasant aroma of coffee wafted through the air.

A Zionist guest house
Our room, one of only seven, turned out to be a small attic that was simply furnished. We did not find (thankfully) a Jacuzzi, and a quiet fan served as the air conditioning. The word TV was not uttered. "I do not sell facilities; rather, the atmosphere of the city", Maoz (30, married with a child) explains with a smile. "People come here with open minds and want to experience the slow pace of Nazareth.

"My aim is to get people to leave their rooms, tour, buy labaneh in the market, encounter the spices in a hundred-year-old mill, eat in the restaurants, and to interact with the other guests in the inn with whom they are sharing a kitchen and balconies. In short, to experience something different without having to leave the country", says Maoz.

He arrived in Nazareth after touring the world with his wife. The two, hiking enthusiasts, hiked more than a thousand kilometers in California and then went to conquer the South American trails. "In Israel we also have a beautiful walking trail", he says, "It is called the Israel National Trail. Before we left Israel, we hiked it for 40 days and discovered that it was lacking basic services for hikers such as the simple guest houses that you find on the trails around the world."

During their trip in South America the energetic couple decided to open a guest house on one of the points of the Israel National Trail, and when they returned to Israel they began looking for an appropriate location. "We decided on Nazareth", says Maoz, "because it is a unique place that would allow us to open an even more unique guest house". The tourist council in the city referred them to the house of Fauzi Azar, one of the city's rich men, that was built in 1880. Azar died years ago and since then his magnificent house has stood empty in the heart of the old city. In a matter of weeks, and after a few suspicious inquiries, Azar's daughter was convinced that it was worth appointing Maoz to manage the house. The house was reopened and renovated, and less than half a year ago the inn hosted its first guests.

Today the news travels from mouth to mouth. Israelis and tourists come to the inn and enjoy the unique experience, the Galilean air, and the attractive prices. "I hope that we will be the first pioneers in the old city of Nazareth and on the trail", says Maoz. "I have no doubt that with the right marketing the Israel Trail can become no less a magnet for Israelis and tourists than the Inca Trail in Peru and the Santiago de Compostela in Spain."

Maoz has another dream, to prepare a walking trail called the Jesus Trail, which would leave Nazareth and would be a three-to-five day walking trip through Kfar Tabor, Tiberias and Kfar Nahum. "The hikers would enjoy the trail, service providers from the periphery could make a living, and everyone would benefit from this unique trail," he says.

An Oriental-Yuppie meal and fireworks
We decided to have our Shabbat meal at a restaurant recommended by Maoz. Al Rida is located within walking distance of the inn, in an old house with an arched roof, heavy wooden furniture and a small garden.

The meals offered an interesting combination of the Oriental and world kitchen. For instance, we tasted finely chopped Arab salad, which in addition to the lemon and mint, included yuppie goat's cheese and a lot of croutons.

The mushrooms stuffed with sweet potato were outstanding and the beef dish had us licking our lips. We had dessert at the old sweet shop El Mukhtar on the main road, where they serve all kinds of baklava and knafa (Middle Eastern honey cakes) at ridiculously low prices.

Thanks to the city streets which are closed to traffic, we had a very calm night's sleep. Fireworks, which did not produce such an impressive display but made a lot of noise, sometimes disturbed the tranquility. The children, it is superfluous to add, enjoyed themselves.

Labaneh in the market and a circular tour
In the morning we hopped over to the market. A five minute encounter with the old women who come from the nearby villages yielded half a kilo of labaneh (NIS 4), 10 pitas (NIS 5) and a generous handful of olives that came with cooked cherries and cost a fraction of the price in the supermarket.

Armed with breakfast, we went on a tour with Fauzi, our excellent tour guide, in a circuitous tour of the attractions in the old city. The first stop was the White Mosque built 200 years ago and since then all the sermons given there are about loving your fellow man, peace and unity.

On the floor of the mosque is a large carpet painted with pillars. Between every two pillars sits a worshipper who is joined to a very straight line of worshippers, because "God", according to tradition, "does not like curved lines".

From the White Mosque we walked through the alleys of the market to the Basilica of the Annunciation, where according to Catholic tradition, Mary lived when she received the famous announcement. The beautiful church, built in 1955 on the remains of an ancient church, is full of pilgrims and tourists of all religions, and we spent a long time admiring the impressive mosaics on its walls.

It is worth noting the mosaic donated by the Japanese church which features Mary and her son, round eyed and wearing kimonos that are edged with real gold and pearls.

Near the Basilica of the Annunciation stands St Joseph's Church, that same carpenter who according to the New Testament married Mary after she received the news of her pregnancy from the angel. In the lower section of the church you can still see the ritual bath where, they claim, the Jewish carpenter immersed.

To close the circle it is worth seeing the Greek Orthodox church of the Annunciation. It is a white church decorated with bells, that inside has the springs where according to this tradition, Mary received the announcement. On your way there do not miss a stop at El-Babour - The Mill of the Galilee; a hundred-year-old family business where they grind more than a thousand types of spices, herbs and grains. The wonderful aroma envelops the street.

Three hours of the relaxing tour passed slowly. Tired and happy we easily navigated our way through the alleys back to the guest house only to discover that our satisfied neighbors already booked their rooms for Rosh Hashana. We will also return.

• Fauzi Azar Inn , Old City of Nazareth. Tel: 04-6020469, 054-4322328.
Prices: NIS 200-350 per night. Minimum of two nights during the weekend. Breakfast: NIS 30.
• Tour Guide: Fauzi Nassar Hana 052-2844787. Price of a tour: NIS 300-600.
• Church Hours: Seven days a week 8:00-17:00. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is closed every day from 12:00-13:00.
• Al Rida Restaurant: Al Bashara street, Old City of Nazareth. Tel: 04-6074404. Open Monday-Saturday 13:00-2:00. Sundays 19:00-2:00.
• El Babour Mill: Habankim Street, Nazareth market. Tel: 04-6455596.


Off the beaten track in Nazareth
Jesus' hometown is undergoing a modest but energetic renaissance
Associated Press May 1, 2009

NAZARETH, Israel — When Pope Benedict XVI pays a visit next month to the town where Jesus grew up, he will bring brief attention to a Holy Land destination that is at once world famous and unjustly overlooked.

Like the tour groups bused into Nazareth for lightning visits on their way to somewhere else, the pope will see the Basilica of the Annunciation, on the site where Christian tradition says an angel told Mary she would bear the child of God.

Like most visitors, the pope likely won't have the chance to savor the shabby Ottoman chic of the Old City, consume too many of Abu Ashraf's honey-drenched pastries, or watch the young and hip show off their clothes and cars opposite the Dandana restaurant. It's safe to assume he will not experience the ear-spitting repertoire of Chaos, Israel's only Arab heavy metal band.
Benedict XVI arrives in Nazareth on May 14, and will celebrate Mass with thousands of worshippers on a nearby hillside.

He comes amid a modest but energetic renaissance here, one that has seen new restaurants opening up and signs of vitality in the neglected alleyways of the Old City. Those willing to go beyond the city's holy sites and shops hawking olive-wood crosses will discover the ideal place to experience Arab life in northern Israel and a base for exploring the rest of the Galilee.
A good place to start is the Fauzi Azar Inn, which opened four years ago in an abandoned mansion in the Old City after its 34-year-old founder, Maoz Inon, pressed his family and friends into service and cleaned out the pigeon droppings and rubble that had accrued there over decades of neglect.

Named for a former owner and referred to by those in the know simply as the Fauzi, the building has been restored to something of its former beauty. It is the kind of place where you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast of black coffee and pita covered in the local zaatar spice while a spiky-haired backpacker emerges bleary-eyed from one of the dorm rooms and shuffles off to brush her teeth. Overhead are flowers and cherubs painted on the ceiling by Lebanese craftsmen in the late 1800s.
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The Fauzi, where dorm beds go for $17 (72 ILS) and private rooms for $50 (213 ILS) per person, is useful as a base for touring the city and the surrounding countryside. A new hiking route, the Jesus Trail, leads trekkers from Nazareth to Kafr Kana, where Jesus is believed to have turned water into wine, and on to other holy sites.
If hiking through Galilee hills sounds too strenuous, simply ask directions through the bazaar to Abu Ashraf's place while discarding any attachment you may have to healthy eating. Abu Ashraf Abu Ahmad can be found pouring batter or laying out circular pastries called "kataif" on a table facing the street.

Don't bother asking how they're made: The recipe is so secret, Abu Ashraf claims, that even his wife has no idea what it is. An outsider can only observe him stuffing batter with nuts and soaking it all in honey. The result is as good as it sounds and will provide the sustenance necessary to keep cruising the bazaar.

As you do, you might meet Hatem Mahroum, 30, who was Israel's welterweight boxing champion and has the immense hands and flat nose to prove it. He runs two shops here in the market and claims Nazareth's spinach is the best in the world. Or you might stop in at the Fahoum coffee store, where the smell of coffee beans and cardamom is overpowering and where the proprietor might subject you to a litany of complaints about how the city has neglected its old market in favor of the new Western-style shopping malls on the outskirts of town.

Those aren't the only complaints people here have, and they'll be happy to fill you in if you ask. Topping the list is the government's neglect of the town and its potential, part of a more general government disregard for the one-fifth of Israelis who are Arabs. Some might mention tensions between the Muslim majority and the one-third of the town's 65,000 people who are Christian. The two communities have sparred in the past, though today there is scant evidence of real conflict.

For a peek into Nazareth's ancient history, it turns out the place to visit is not a museum but a gift shop. The store, Cactus, became an archaeological site accidentally, when its owners undertook a renovation in the early 1990s and happened to discover an immense Roman bathhouse from the time of Jesus.

Martina and Elias Shama have since incorporated the ruins into their shop, and visitors can go underneath the floor to the arched basement where slaves stoked the fires that heated the rooms above. Ceramic pipes installed by ancient plumbers are still visible in the walls.
The bathhouse has helped revise the accepted view of what Nazareth was at the time of Jesus: A town with a grand public bath would have been a large urban center, not the poor backwater of popular imagination.

As evening approaches, you might be looking for another place to eat.
Those in a laid-back frame of mind would be advised to check out the ElReda, on the ground floor of another Ottoman mansion. The decor is heavy on wood and old photographs of mustachioed merchants, the menu includes fresh local produce and the soundtrack never changes: from 8 o'clock until closing time at 2 a.m. or so you will hear nothing but the ballads of the Egyptian diva Umm Kalthoum. That's the long-standing rule decreed by the owner, Daher Zeidani, a professorial type with glasses hanging on a string around his neck.

"You can listen to other music during the day, but after you hear Umm Kalthoum you can't hear anyone else. That's why you finish the day with Umm Kalthoum," he explained.
A taste of the younger Nazareth scene can be had not far away at Dandana, opened in 2006 by Fadi Saba, 31, and his twin brothers, Shadi and Rami, 27. Dandana serves European-style food and alcohol, and some nights the Sabas push the tables aside, bring a DJ, crank up the Arabic pop music and dance.

The Sabas say they are well-enough known around town that Nazareth daughters put them on the phone to calm parents worried about curfew infractions. "We tell the parents 'don't worry, they're in good hands,'" Fadi Saba said.

At the bar, the brothers said, you might meet local celebrities like soccer players or the members of Chaos, Nazareth's contribution to Israel's heavy metal scene. The band's MySpace page says the band started as "four friends from Nazareth" and identifies its style as "melodic death metal."
The town's young people are increasingly liberal, with young women far more likely to go out at night dressed to kill than they were a decade ago, Saba said. There are conservatives in the town, including Muslims who oppose drinking alcohol, he said, but they largely "keep it to themselves." There's no better place in northern Israel to spend an evening, he said, but acknowledged word was slow getting out.

"Take someone from New York or from Germany, and they'll only know Nazareth from the Bible — they think people over here are still riding donkeys," he said.


Israel 21C

By Judith Sudilovsky - Israel 21C

One of the most recognized young entrepreneurs in the city of Nazareth is Maoz Inon, a 32-year-old Israeli Jew who fell in love with the city several years ago while hiking the Israel National Trail.

From the moment he stepped into Nazareth's old city, he knew he would return to the city which held such an allure for him with its hidden alleyways and exotic smells.

Three years ago with the assistance of the Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association, Inon rented and renovated a 200-year-old Arab mansion, opening up a guesthouse in the center of the old city. The guesthouse is named after the original owner of the building, Fauzi Azar.

"I believe in this town and its ability to open up the tourism market. Nazareth has real potential," says Inon with his infectious smile. "They appreciate me here. They see that I believe in Nazareth, see how hard I am working to bring people here. I believe Jews and Arabs must live together on this land and I am working to put that belief into action."

None of Azar's five children remain in the old city and only two currently live in Nazareth, but one of his great-granddaughters, Surida Nasser, 35, works at the Fauzi Azar Inn as the day reservation manager preserving a connection to the family's old home.

When Inon first arrived three years ago, some 30-40 percent of the old properties in the old city had been abandoned - including the Azar home - as people left the confines of the narrow streets and old buildings for homes in the newer neighborhoods with better infrastructure and car access.

Now, Inon says there is a renaissance of sorts with young Nazarenes revamping their family's shops, offering new sophisticated restaurants and cafes for tourists. Wissam Abu Saleem, 31, serves Arabic coffee in a traditional Nazareth coffee shop which he has renovated and which his family has run for three generations.

"Maoz thinks of the future," says Abu Saleem. "What he does is good for me and for Nazareth, he sends me customers and I send him customers too."

Currently the inn boasts a six-person dormitory on the ground floor, which includes a traditional outside courtyard. Up a steep set of stairs on the second floor there are seven rooms capable of sleeping two to five people. Three of the rooms include a private bath.

A spacious kitchen allows guests to prepare their own meals with fresh produce bought at the nearby open air market. Expansion plans are in the works and Inon hopes to have a dining area and three new rooms for up to 12 guests ready within the next year. The ground floor also includes a traditional downstairs courtyard.

Inon proudly points out the intricate woodcarvings and colorful Italian murals of the renovated six-meter high wooden ceiling in the inn's central lounge. Sunlight pours in through three towering arched windows separated by white marble pillars. This is, he said, a typical setting for a wealthy 19th century Arab family.

"Nazareth is on a par with many of the beautiful cities in the world," he says, noting its strategic location in the Galilee near many Christian and Jewish holy sites and some of Israel's most famous natural parks and reserves.

Many tourists troop through the city to visit the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation and then quickly march to the other end of town to visit the Greek Orthodox Church by Mary's Well, without ever stopping to look around them and really see Nazareth, he says.

"They stay for half an hour and don't see what we see. They don't benefit from the city and they don't give back," he says. "Nazareth is not a picture-postcard town. It is life and you have to see it, experience it and learn it."

Inon eagerly shows guests around the streets of the old city, stopping at Ali Abu Ahmed's shop to sample a traditional sweet, popping in to chat with the owners of the Elbabour spice mill shop where the aroma of freshly ground coffee, cinnamon and local dried herbs tickles the nostrils, and shaking hands of newly made acquaintances and shopkeepers all along the way. He has learned the city's history from the local residents and shares it with his listeners.

He points out the traditional architecture and unique spots such as the Bride's Market where shop windows glitter with gold wedding jewelry and ornate white lace-decorated candles, for use in wedding ceremonies, hang on hooks in front of shops.

"Couples here come from all over the Galilee to buy gold," he tells his guests this morning - two Jewish women from Vancouver, Canada who decided to take a few days off the beaten path of site seeing.

"We weren't sure what it would be like," says Ellen Hamer, 53, who was on her third trip to Israel. "We thought it would be just Christian sites but it is fabulous. It is so friendly and safe. It is so nice to be in an Arab town. I wanted to see the whole country."

There has not been one cancellation to the Guest House even during the height of the tensions in Gaza and southern Israel, says Inon.

"It's a different world here in Nazareth," he says.

"I am optimistic," Inon adds "The people of Nazareth love tourists. They have dignity. Nazareth is a great place for the independent traveler and it is a great place to be. It combines Arab culture and Christian and Muslim traditions. But Nazareth is not just about Christian sites; it is about an authentic beautiful Arab city."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Graeme Stone Trek Adventure May 2010

To contact Graeme to have him guide you on such a trek email to Graeme Stone

Trek May 2010–05–12

The journey began with the arrival of the trekking members on Sunday evening, May 2nd, Ben Gurion Airport. There was an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement, and certainly an element of competition. Who would succeed that most coveted award as Trekker of the Year? The participants were Michael Fox, holder of the previous year's prized event and certainly a favored prospect; Richard Harris, an experienced and formidable contender, and a Machiavellian tactician with a "no holds-barred approach"; Ian Braidman, who was given a 2 hour time limit during question time for dissertation and questions, and clearly the intellectual giant; Armand, who looked very dashing with his Van Gogh beard, and was prepared for any challenge; Keith Moss, another strong contender but prone to lapses of nostalgia – taking out his telephone to reflect upon the photo of his baby daughter and descending into moments of melancholia or ascending and polarizing to fits of euphoria.; Jeffrey Gould, exhibiting a sparkling sense of wit and expressing a rugged determination – the quiet achiever. The group leader was his usual swashbuckling self, performing acrobatic feats of balancing diplomacy with good humor, and determined to make the experience challenging, educational and illuminating.

Departing from the airport, we drove towards Jerusalem and along the way we entered Abhu Ghosh, a friendly Arab village, where we enjoyed a sumptuous meal of Arab-style salads including hoummous, tabouleh (parsley salad), falafel and meat cooked over a charcoal grill.

Around 11pm, we entered the Old City of Jerusalem, just inside Jaffa Gate, to our lodgings in the New Imperial Hotel – a charming historic building built in the 1890's, - an old-world hotel run by the Dajani family, Christian Arabs. The entrance area of the hotel had sweeping circular staircases, and there were photos, memorabilia and caricatures covering the walls. However, there were a few voices of dissension regarding the accommodation – some comments claimed there was no room 52, and in fact the room appeared to be a glorified broom closet! Others thought the breakfast did not meet the standards of the Ritz.

A little disgruntled from the breakfast, we began Monday morning, 3rd May, with a planned tour of the Old City. We entered the Arab market area and made our way to the Temple Mount – a holy place for Jews and Muslims, the cornerstone of monotheism and a source of major contention in the continual political conflict. In the centre of the Mount is Mt Moriah, where Abraham had gone to sacrifice Isaac, and where Solomon had built the First Temple and that was later destroyed by the Babylonians; subsequently it was the site where Herod rebuilt the Second Temple and which was later destroyed by the Romans during the Great Revolt in 70AD. As an aftermath, the Muslims built there the Golden Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque in the 7th century, and these buildings dominate the architectural skyline to this day.

From the Temple Mount, we walked to the excavations of the ancient City of David. There was an interesting historical 3D movie;, a wonderful observation point with a 360 degree view of East Jerusalem/ Mt of Olives/ Mt Zion/ Village of Silwan and the southern walls of the Old City. We then entered Hezekiah's tunnel and waded through water for 560 metres in complete darkness aided by complimentary flashlights. Emerging from the tunnel, we took an informal taxi drive to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem and re-entered the Old City. We lunched at Abhu Shukri, enjoying Arab-style salads.

We returned to the Western Wall, and placed messages between the ancient stones, and I am sure there were probably a few who requested to succeed in their quest as Trekker of the Year, and I am sure that God answered the prayer of one. We toured again through the markets/bizarre and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter, with some members of the group looking for the Holy Grail. It is a magnificent church, originally built in the 4th century, having endured numerous acts of destruction through war, fire and earthquake, and mostly rebuilt from the Crusader period, and representing the final moments of Jesus on earth.

Later in the afternoon, we drove south to Herodion, the desert fortress/palace built by King Herod and enjoyed the sunset views of the Judean desert, and discussed the modern politic situation of the West Bank settlements and the separation fence/wall, separating the Palestinians.

In the evening, we dined at the Dolphin Sea restaurant in West Jerusalem – a pleasant and amicable fish restaurant.

Tuesday, 4th May – a relatively early start (8.30 am, driving in our van northwards out of Jerusalem, passing through the tunnel under the Mt of Olives down towards the Dead Sea. Along the way we were joined by Sender, who was armed and would be our accompaniment for the day's hike – was there a divine message in his name – no-one questioned the scheme of things.

Our hike would take us through a canyon in the Judean Desert, following a perennial stream, surrounded by the dramatic desert landscape – characterized by rounded stark hills with deep gorges and valleys; twisting, winding roads that made one shudder should the driver – myself, release his hands from the steering wheel to even scratch his ear let alone a more stronger distraction. The roads switch-backed in their radical convulsions – descending and ascending, the driver hugged the side of the hill, as the alternative would be to plunge into the eternal abyss.

We drove through the Jewish settlements of Kfar Adumim and Alon, and left Sender's vehicle at our endpoint and returned back up the winding roads to Anatot to begin the hike of Nahal Prat.

Anatot, was the birthplace of Jeremiah the prophet and our hike began at the spring of Ein Prat. Initially, there was a steep des cent, and we came to the cave/Greek Orthodox monastery of Haritoun, where a monk invited us to visit him and share his company – but we were not to be distracted from our mission. Immediately we were confronted with the vision of numerous pools and a small-flowing stream, surrounded by lush vegetation and birdlife – it was easy to forget that we were in Judean desert. The hike left the shaded eucalypts of the nature reserve and descended into canyons surrounded by steep cliffs of layered dolomite/limestone rock formations. Sections of the stream were choked were with bamboo and papyrus. The colors of the desert hills were bleached and contrasted with the deep green vegetation and the refreshing pools of water. It was difficult to acknowledge the realization that one was in the desert in the middle of this verdant paradise. Yet here is a stream that flows all year round, that begins in the Hills of Jerusalem, traverses 28 kilometres – the breadth of the Judean Desert and empties into the Dead Sea. There were reminders of the toil of mankind with ruins of aqueducts ran parallel to the stream and which were in use over 2000 years ago until modern times.

The days was hot, and the walk was moderately challenging- 6 hours; and there was a sumptuous lunch by a natural pool with a small waterfall. We observed some hyraces (coneys, or mountain guinea pigs), and ibex, a type of deer with extended curved horns. Eventually the stream disappeared underground, and we walked on the dry riverbed until arriving at the spring of Ein Fawwar – our destination. The spring is a desert pool that fills up and empties itself every couple of hours, to refill again in a cyclical manner. The trekkers bathed in the refreshingly cool water while I recovered the van.

We celebrated with a drink at "the Last Chance Cafe", near Jericho, and parted from Sender, like a vision, and then drove south along the shores of the Dead Sea road of highway 90 to Ein Gedi.

We enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner at Kibbutz Ein Gedi Guesthouse and wine was poured by a most gracious and attractive young waitress.The accommodation was the Ein Gedi Field School – rooms and sleeping partners were re-appointed according to decibel levels of snoring. The evening was warm and balmy with a pleasant breeze.

Wednesday 5th May – an apprehensive start to the day – the group had been forewarned that the day would involve a considerable challenge, and an assistant would be required for help in negotiating some of the dry waterfall descents. After breakfast we met Arik, my assistant, a member of the local search and rescue squad, and a fireman.

We drove to Nahal (Heh. – canyon) Mishmar – located between Ein Gedi and Massada, and then drove on a track off the road until we reached an informal car-park, guarded by an old Bedouin. We divided the weight of food supplies among the group, and began the hike along the dry riverbed.

We had set off at 8.30am, and already it was warm at the beginning of the hike. It was going to be a hot day. Steadily we began our climb along the side of the riverbed. Views were magnificent. We photographed a group portrait next to an attractive acacia tree – and continued our ascent. The surrounding mountains in desert colors were magnificent. It appeared as though ancient palaces had been carved into the massive cliff faces. Our ascent crossed a dry stream bed and we entered a huge enclosed valley surrounded by steep cliffs. I indicated the Cave of Treasures – where a large ancient treasure horde had been discovered in the early 1960's, and papyrus letters had been found from the period of the Bar Kochba Revolt, 132-5 AD.
Finally we stopped for a break under a rock ledge, and those who still had energy ascended a little higher to the spring, Ein Mishmar. However, at this time of the year only a small trickle emerges from the rock face with some stagnant pools below.
We postponed lunch, and began the descent. We diverged from our original trail and descended through the canyon of the stream bed. Initially our descent involved serious scrambling over rocks and sliding down smooth waterfall faces of several metres. Our first serious descent required Arik to prepare a rope and harness to parasail/climb down the waterfall face. Our group learned the technique quickly – something which would be useful later on.

The smooth stone surfaces and narrow channels of the canyon were challenging and attractive. The general landscape was magnificent. Finally, we found a shady place amongst the narrow passageways and rocky surface for lunch – which was ravished with gusto.

After lunch we had our first serious descent, again this was accomplished with ropes. When I informed the group of what lay ahead, there was a commotion and ominous foreboding – which would later express itself in dissension and would require firm leadership and resolute decision-making.

The descent was challenging and involved a great deal of team co-operation to assist one another in placement and location of hands and footings. Steel rungs had been embedded in the more difficult sections to assist in the climbing. The afternoon progressed. At one stage the gorge opened and became wider and more level, but then the passage narrowed and there was another moderate descent that required ropes. We approached the final challenge.

The last waterfall dropped 20 metres over 2 sections which were going to be negotiated as one descent with ropes and harness. Some members of the group were discernibly not happy about this prospect, especially as it landed in a pool of water and would require water shoes for the descent.

Arik prepared the rope and harness, and as group leader I descended first. The first part was a little precarious but the rope certainly aided one's confidence climbing down the steel rungs. The intermediate landing required one to relocate the steel footings and then began the descent into the pool below. However, the rungs disappeared and there were only steps and hand grips carved out of a vertical stone channel, and then one landed into the pool of water, which was fortunately only waist deep, but very refreshing.

The expressions on the members of the group as they descended were priceless – as each one was asked to turn and face the camera. The sense of achievement after completing this assault was great and well worth the anxiety and initial trepidation.
The next part of the hike traversed through a narrow valley of extremely large boulders – which presented a lengthy process of negotiating and finding passageways as we walked towards the vehicle.
Sunset was rapidly approaching. The views were magnificent. The surface of the Dead Sea was like a glass mirror and reflected the crimson colored images of the Mountains of Edom in Jordan.

We had experienced a great day as we drove along the Jordan River Valley towards Beth Shean in the darkness. We had a lusty meal of good food, a little alcohol and rested in comfortable accommodation at the Beth Shean Guesthouse.

Thursday, 6th May – We had a good breakfast at the Beth Shean Guesthouse, followed by a tour of the magnificent Archaeological Park of Beth Shean. The ancient city has been well exposed, complete with theatre, temples, colonnaded streets. A climb to the top of the tel (ancient mound) revealed an ancient Egyptian temple and excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

After visiting the park we drove across the Jezreel Valley to Kibbutz Ein Harod and left our luggage there, and then drove across the valley ascending Mt Gilboa to Mt Barkan, where we began our hike after a pleasant picnic lunch.
It was already after midday, the weather was warm. We started off with good views to the south towards Jenin in Samaria, and then began crossing the mountain range.
Most of the trail was forested and shaded with a comfortable breeze blowing. The views down to the Jezreel Valley were magnificent – observing the geometric patterns of the fields and settlements that had been established in the 1920's. We recounted the stories of early Zionism and agricultural settlement and the land purchase of Yosef Hankin, reclaiming the swampland and turning it into a very productive landscape.

When we had breaks, we heard stories of King Saul and the final tragic end of him and his sons on Mt Gilboa, whilst fighting against the Phillistines. We told stories of Devorah and Barak and the battle against King Jabin of the Canaanites and how their chariots were caught below in a freak storm and bogged in the mud along the Kishon riverbed, and Sisera, his captain meeting his end with a tent peg transfixed through his forehead under the forceful hand of Yael, the Kenite. There were stories of Gideon at the pool of Ein Harrod; King ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel. We read an excerpt from Stefan Heym's "The King David Report" describing King Saul's visit to the witch of Ein Dor and her calling up the ghosts of David and the prophet Samuel – which was well received.

The hike was an attractive one, with great views and colorful stories. Towards the end we reached a monument commemorating the fateful death of 7 settlers in the 1940's whilst trying to defend the land.
In the evening we drove to the Ruttenberg Restaurant –named after Pinchas Ruttenberg, the founder of the Palestinian Electrical Corporation and the developer of the hydro-electric scheme on the JordanRriver from 1927-48. I delivered a talk on the subject, and then we consumed a delicious meal and were later joined by Joe Sofair, our former aide-de-camp. The deserts were as lascivious as the waitress was attractive, and Richard helped himself to 2 desserts.

Friday, 7th June - After enjoying an excellent Kibbutz breakfast in the dining room of Kibbutz Ein Harod, we crossed the Jezreel Valley in a northerly direction, stopping at an Arab village, called Tamra to make our grocery shopping. We were well received by the local inhabitants. We then drove to Kibbutz Kfar Gazit to begin our hike of Nahal Tabor, with magnificent views of Mt Tabor in the background.
In this area there are a number of small Arab towns – Daburiyah, Shibli, and Kfar Misr; and there are several kibbutzim – Kfar Kish ahd Kfar Gazit – with large rolling wheat fields, and olive orchards.

Our hike began with a long gradual descent down to Nahal Tabor, and then progressed along the stream bed, rich in lush-green vegetation, and bright pink oleander blossoms, and we frequently crossed the stream using pebble bridges. The hike itself is not difficult technically. The highlight of the hike is entering the basalt canyon – attractive black basalt rock formations contrasting with the brilliant pink oleander blossoms. We lunched by a small natural pool with a waterfall. Unfortunately the litter left behind by previous groups detracted from the tranquil beauty of the site. The diverse vegetation along the banks of the Tabor stream and the black rocks contrasted well, and made it a pleasant walk as the day heated up. We circled Tel Reshef, formerly a large town during the biblical period and a centre for the tribe of Issachar. Then the long ascent began. It was exposed without shade, and the track followed through the kibbutz wheat fields. The climbed extended for 1.5 hours, and reached an observation point – overlooking the surrounding cultivated plains and valleys, and with a great view of Mt Tabor. The team welcomed the respite, and we enjoyed a fresh melon. Below us was a harvested wheat field, and carved into the stubble with a plough , a romantic farmer had proposed in enormous letters inscribed in the field, " Ayellet, will you marry me?"

Completing the hike, we drove north-west through the Carmel Ranges, through Dalyat haCarmel, where we stopped in the town centre for coffee, and enjoyed the convivial atmosphere created by the Druze people there. We talked about the Druze as a breakaway heretic Shiite sect, their basic emancipation of women, the Druze as brave soldiers in the Israeli army, transfiguration of souls and reincarnation.
We stayed in a charming Druze Guesthouse, El Manzul (meaning wayside inn), in Issafiya. And that evening we celebrated Shabbat in a local Druze restaurant, with our traditional Shabbat blessings for Kiddush, the wine and the bread – everyone participated in the recitation, with no feeling of discomfort amongst our Druze cousins. The meal was great, the table over-laden with dishes of food and it was a very enjoyable evening.

Saturday 8th May – our hosts prepared us a wonderful breakfast, before setting out to Ein el Balaad, the local spring in Issafiya, and where our hike began, above the canyon, Nahal Yagur. After an initial steep descent, the trail became submerged in a heavy forest canopy. The path was well- shaded, and the descent was steep.
I recounted the story of the holocaust survivors who had been interned in nearby Atlit camp by the British, and how the Haganna had orchestrated an escape and all the refugees had found freedom and passed this way on their escape through Nahal Yagur.
The scenery became very beautiful in the narrow canyon, with lush vegetation, a multitude of contorted trees, a few mysterious car chassies, sounds of birdlife, and unusual rock formations, with challenging climbs down the waterfalls – requiring skill and concentration – though not overly hazardous. We took breaks along the way, and we finally discovered it was more healthy to eat dried fruits and energy bars, instead of a heavy lunch meal.

The walk proceeded exceedingly well – a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath in spiritual and healthy bliss, occasionally meeting fellow hikers coming from the opposite direction, who would stop briefly for a chat. However, the descent is more difficult than the ascent – requiring greater concentration. Some of the more difficult waterfalls had steel rungs for the descent – and though a few were precarious, we managed to assist each other and negotiate them successfully.
Having passed the final difficult challenge, I released a sigh of relief and went on ahead. Then it happened. My name reverberated through the narrow gorge – a desperate scream calling my name – the dread I had feared sounded imminent. I dropped my pack and ran back with Keith, as the others gathered around Jeffrey who stood over Ian.
Ian lay motionless on the ground, surrounded by a pool of blood around his head, and had blood covering his mouth and nose. However, it was a relief to know that he was conscious, and could move his limbs, and we could communicate with him. Ian had tripped and fallen head first onto a sharp rock – it appeared he had broken his nose and blood was still flowing from his nostrils. His glasses had fallen and a lens was missing lost in the undergrowth. The situation could have been a lot worse. Progressively, Ian was able to sit up and overcome his shock. After we recovered his missing lens, he unsteadily managed to get to his feet, and gingerly we continued on our way. Fortunately we were not too far from Kibbutz Yagur, where we faced the dilemma of continuing or sending Ian back in a taxi. My opinion was that he was sufficiently capable of completing the next 2 hours of walking, however the decision was up to him, as I believed he was in a rational state. To Ian's credit he completed the hike, with his nose still bleeding because of the exertion, and the achievement was highly noteworthy and impressive, and surely a recognizable personal achievement.
The hike was a great hike and it had been a good day, save for the accident. We passed by a teahouse on our return journey, and Ian was examined by a Druze doctor who serves in the army.

We drove on to Ein Hod, to the house of Sue and Bob, and where Joe had prepared our celebratory barbecue, and where our accommodation had been arranged for the evening. It was a great night- a resounding success. The food was delicious, the wine superb, and the company magnificent, and our hosts were wonderful. The toasts and speeches were hilarious, and recounting our exploits brought a great sense of achievement and satisfaction – superlative experience. It was a truly memorable evening. Richard managed to take the award, Trekker of the Year. It was a difficult decision, and could have been controversial but the judged handled the decision with tact and diplomacy – awarding all the runners-up and the victor with the traditional "hamsa" – a sign of good omens, and to be hung in the house in a prominent position with pride.
Sunday, 9th May – an excellent breakfast on Bob and Sue's porch. Eventually, we managed a short hike through Nahal Oren, returning to Ein Hod. The hike was good, walking through the vegetation of the Carmel forrest, and good views to the Mediterranean Sea near Atlit. Ein Hod, is a former abandoned Arab village that has become a well-known artist's colony – with galleried, restaurants, and bed/breakfasts. Bob has a very good stained-glass window studio, and Sue runs the bed and breakfast.

Eventually we extracted ourselves from Ein Hod and drove to our next destination – Nahsholim Beach. We had a late afternoon walk along the beautiful, historical coastline – this was a famous port during the time of King David and King Solomon, and many ancient vessels sank along its shores.
That evening we dined at Ben Ezra's fish restaurant in Atlit, sadly parted from Richard, and attended an Andalusian concert in the outdoor theatre of nearby Ein Hod.

Monday,10th May – a visit to the local marine archaeology museum ,in Nahsholim – it is an excellent local museum displaying the local finds from nearby off-shore shipwrecks and the archaeological dig on the ridge above the ancient port. It covers 3500 years of history, and is located on a beautiful section of Israel's coastline. We enjoyed a good walk along the beach before we began our return journey to Herziliya and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It was sad to have ended another great trek in Israel, a tremendous experience, and a personally very satisfying adventure.
I wish you all good health and good fortune, and look forward to meeting you all again.

Best wishes, Graeme Stone 16/5/10